Trends and Opportunities in Thin-Film Solar

Amorphous silicon (a-Si) will continue to lead the thin-film solar photovoltaics (PV) space for several years to come, says the research firm NanoMarkets. The firm projects that US $1.3 billion in revenues for a-Si based photovoltaics this year that will grow to $4.1 billion in the year 2014. These and other findings appear in the firm’s newest report titled, “Materials Markets for Thin-Film Silicon Photovoltaics.”

According to the report, a-Si combines the advantages associated with all thin-film technologies, notably reduced bulk and weight, flexibility, and the potential for lower-cost manufacturing, with benefits typically associated with a mature technology — stablished processes and equipment.

Today a-Si represents about 54 percent of all thin-film modules shipped by value. By 2011 this number will have slipped slightly to 47 percent. In addition, the firm said that a-Si is the most likely technological route that will be taken by new entrants into the sector, as manufacturing equipment and materials are readily available.
 
NanoMarkets believes that the development of a-Si PV cells with improved efficiency will be the key to a-Si maintaining its dominant position in the marketplace. Areas where efficiency gains can be made include:  further optimization of the tandem-junction thin-film deposition process; modification of the current processes used to texturize the TCO, which will improve the light-trapping efficiency and thus overall efficiency of the cell; and the development of materials to support the transition to nanostructured silicon, including silicon nanowires and silicon-based quantum dot absorbers, which if successful will provide a path to efficiencies above 15 percent.
 
Near the end of the forecast period other approaches in the thin-film landscape will also make their impact felt, especially CIGS and possibly organic PV and dye sensitive cells.

For more information about the NanoMarkets report, click here.

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