Analyst: Thin-film marketshare doubling in four years

With prices plummeting and production soaring, thin-film solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are poised to snatch business from leading crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar PV in the next several years, taking nearly a third of the market by 2013, according to a report from iSuppli.

Analyst: Thin-film marketshare doubling in four years

November 13, 2009 –
  With prices plummeting and production soaring, thin-film solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are poised to snatch business from leading crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar PV in the next several years, taking nearly a third of the market by 2013, according to a report from iSuppli.

The success of First Solar — tops in the world with >1GW of solar power production, with production costs ($0.90) half those of c-Si module producers — has paved the way for the entire thin-film sector to take off, notes Greg Sheppard, chief research officer for iSuppli. Average thin-film panel prices are expected to drop nearly 18% in 2010 to $1.40; c-Si panels will drop about 20% to $2.00, and will continue to close the gap as the sector uses its deeper pockets to spend more on tech R&D and manufacturing improvements, the firm says.

Thin-film panels deposit layers only a few µm thick on a substrate, vs. thickness of hundreds of µm for polysilicon solar wafers. That’s part of the tradeoff: thin-film costs a lot less to make, but conversion efficiency is lower than silicon PV, and requires more (and costs 15%-40% more) for space-limited rooftop installations. Thin-film, though, is working on closing that gap, too, from around 10% now to lab results in the mid-teens, thanks to stacked (tandem and triple) junctions that can absorb more light spectrum with different materials. New variants of deposition processes (e.g., inkjet printing) help more quickly deposit materials than variants of chemical-vapor deposition/screen printing.






Percent of solar panel production (Watts) by technology, thin-film vs. crystalline. (Source: iSuppli)

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