The race to produce solar PV for less than a dollar per watt is over. The new cost race is now based on cents, not dollars. For full article see – LINK from renewableenergyworld
The equipment manufacturer Oerlikon said that its new fab line is pumping out 10 percent-efficient amorphous-silicon (a-Si) thin-film modules at 70 cents a watt.
Okay, so the sub-one dollar production cost is still a major milestone. But as more companies approach or cross the threshold, the solar industry is starting to compete at a much different level.
In 2009, industry leader First Solar was the first company to produce cadmium-telluride thin-film modules for below a dollar a watt. Today, the company is producing panels at 76 cents a watt – a benchmark by which all other solar manufacturers are compared. If a company can’t provide a clear path to that cost range quickly, it probably doesn’t have a good chance of competing in today’s market. But First Solar certainly can’t rest on its laurels.
In a big announcement today, the equipment manufacturer Oerlikon said that its new fab line is pumping out 10 percent-efficient amorphous-silicon (a-Si) thin-film modules at 70 cents a watt.
Yes, you read that correctly: An a-Si panel at 70 cents per watt – six cents below what First Solar is currently producing at. Oerlikon has been talking about this goal since 2008 when it was producing modules for $1.50 a watt.
“This certainly gives us a lot of confidence. We were able to meet the target we set for the end of 2010 earlier than expected,” said Chris O’Brien, head of market development at Oerlikon.
O’Brien said the company has been constantly making changes to the fab line over the years. Those changes include: A focus on tandem-junction (i.e. higher efficiency) cells, thinner silicon layers, higher reflective backsheets, eliminating “dead zones” around the perimeter of the module, and reducing material needs. He said those changes have increased cell efficiencies and reduced the capital expenditure for its customers by 25%.
Oerlikon also announced the development of a new tandem-junction “micromorph” cell that is 11.9 percent efficient in the lab. The efficiency was verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
For the last two years, industry analysts have been predicting the death of a-Si thin film, a technology plagued by high costs. In many ways, they have been right: A number of a-Si companies have gone belly up, and the most high-profile equipment producer, Applied Materials, got out of the business earlier this summer. The technology couldn’t compete with conventional PV when prices for silicon dropped so dramatically.
“We ran into some enormous headwinds,” said O’Brien. “The advantages of thin film disappeared quickly. But we feel that’s changing.”
This announcement illustrates the new paradigm for solar manufacturers. Two years ago, producing solar at $1.50 a watt was pretty good. Today, that just won’t cut it. If the company continues on a path toward steady cost reductions and efficiency improvements in line with that trend, Oerlikon could prove to be a major success story in an a-Si sector filled with bad news.