Imec ITF: Reaching sub-$1/W cost target of Si PV module manufacturing

In an SST-exclusive series of blogs, imec reports from its International Technology Forum this week in Brussels. Continuing Si PV’s close association with microelectronics and modern IC manufacturing know-how will continue to play an important role in achieving cost and performance goals, said keynote speaker Richard Swanson from SunPower.

by Mieke Van Bavel, science editor, imecClick to Enlarge

May 27, 2011 – Richard Swanson, SunPower’s president emeritus and one of the pioneers of crystalline silicon PV, has witnessed and steered the evolution of PV programs, set up in the wake of the oil crisis of 1973 to create the fundamentals for the development of solar energy. These programs have one major goal: bringing the module price down, to finally eliminate the need for government support and compete with emerging thin-film technologies. Roadmaps have been set up, projecting the magic number of “less than $1/W” module cost to make Si PV a large-scale, cost-effective energy source.

Through the years, continuous cost reduction has been achieved by improved manufacturing practices, increase of areal throughput of equipment, and upscaling of fabs. But how to take crystalline PV to the next level, reach that magic number and reduce the costs even further? “We must boost the cell’s efficiency,” said Swanson, in his imec ITF keynote talk. “If we get more energy out of a cell, we can harvest more energy per gram of costly Si, we can harvest more energy with the same installation costs.” A further cost reduction will be enabled by Si wafer thinning, reducing the amount of Si that is needed.

Moreover, continuing Si PV’s close association with microelectronics and modern IC manufacturing know-how will continue to play an important role in achieving cost and performance goals, Swanson noted. Relevant microelectronics business processes such as process design, equipment review processes, and statistical process control (SPC) can be transferred into the PV factory.

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