Clean Power

Published on November 12th, 2009 | by Zachary Shahan

12

Thin-Film Solar Panels to Double their Share of the Market by 2013?

November 12th, 2009 by  


A new report by iSuppli Corp. predicts that by 2013, 31% of the solar panel market will be accounted for by thin-film solar panels. These thin-film panels are rapidly replacing traditional crystalline photovoltaic panels.

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Thin-film solar is being used in a variety of new applications, from solar roof shingles to solar tiles (like clay tiles) to solar panels glued right onto the roof. Its flexibility in use is one major benefit of this technology.

Lower cost is the number one factor responsible for its anticipated growth, but there are trade-offs as well.

In 2008, thin-film solar panels accounted for 14% of the market (in terms of watts). Thin-film solar panels are quite established now, especially by leading producer First Solar Inc. They are also nearly twice as cheap as crystalline panels now.

“The market viability of thin-film has been solidly established by First Solar Inc. as it rockets to become the world’s top solar panel maker this year, with more than a gigawatt of production,” said Greg Sheppard, chief research officer for iSuppli. “At the same time, the company has driven its cost of production to less than 90 cents per watt, keeping its costs at approximately half the level of crystalline module producers.”

As a result of these factors, iSuppli thinks that thin-film panels will grow from having 14% of the market share to 31% within a few years.

Trade-offs Between Thin-Film and Crystalline Solar Panels

Thin-film panels are considerably less efficient in converting sunlight to electricity, but on the other hand, they are much cheaper to produce.

So, on the one hand, people may choose the cheaper thin-film panels, but when space is limited (not uncommon, especially for residential applications), crystalline panels may be the preferred choice.

“A thin-film installation can take 15 percent to 40 percent more space to achieve the same total system wattage output as crystalline. This tends to limit its appeal in certain applications,” iSuppli reports.

Crystalline and Thin-Film Prices for 2009, and Anticipated Price Drops

For 2009, the average price for thin-film panels is about $1.70. For crystalline panels, it is about $2.50. By 2010, iSuppli predicts that thin-film panels will drop to $1.40 (17.6% drop) and crystalline panels to $2.00 (20% drop).

ISuppli expects a larger drop in crystalline prices in the coming years because there is more money going into R&D, capital spending and manufacturing refinement for those. However, it expects that thin-film panels will still be cheaper through 2012.

Another Reason for Thin-Film Technology’s Production Boom

Another reason thin-film panels are booming now and expected to take a larger and larger share of the market is that certain production lines — turn-key production lines — are growing. Numerous companies, such as Applied Materials (USA), Oerlikon (Switzerland), Mirle Automation (Taiwan), ULVAC (Japan), and Centrotherm (Germany), are making this happen and this is a major boost to thin-film solar panel production.

via coolerplanet and iSuppli

Related Stories:

1) A Thin-Film Solar Panel Installation

2) SRS Introduces Thin Film Solar Tile for Clay Tile Roofs

3) XeroCoat Boosts Thin Film Solar Efficiency, Lowers Costs with New Coatings

4) Thin-Film Solar Cells Get a Boost From Nanotechnology

Image Credit: First Solar






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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.



  • Zachary, I want to ask you $1.40 that you state in this post is cost of what size for thin film? And how many film that people usually build for home solar panels?

  • Zachary, I want to ask you $1.40 that you state in this post is cost of what size for thin film? And how many film that people usually build for home solar panels?

  • Barry Dennis

    The combination of higher conversion efficiencies through materials research applications, and manufacturing efficiencies, including loss reduction improvements,may soon lead to an overall improvement in Installation and Operation ROI calculations.

    We need to focus on an investment criteria that allow complete energy self-sufficiency both in retrofits and new construction.

    “Feeding the grid” is an attempt to justify the grid, not a real-world appraisal of cost vs. desirability of self-sufficiency.

    If all new construction was self-sufficient with reliable technology and maintenance characteristics, we could seriously reduce development costs.

    Considering the huge amounts of power loss in just the transmission grid, further grid development MUST include requirements for underground line additions, insulation, all of which allow for an increase in power availability,reducing the need for additional generation.

    Transmission is locked into generations-old technology, based on an allowed monopoly cost structure; not worthy of today’s technological capability, like power loss reductions of up to 25% with insulated underground lines-pays for itself in 4-6 years.

  • Zachary Shahan

    Jesse,

    thanks for all the additional info.

    As is always the case, a study’s findings are based on its assumptions.

    As is clear, you would have made different assumptions than the iSuppli study, and it looks like yours might have been more accurate, or more specific.

    They lumped a lot of different technologies together for this study, and came out with some general results. However, as you seem to point out, that may not be the best method for these technologies. Additionally, some of their assumptions (i.e. efficiencies and opportunity for price reductions) may be wrong. I cannot say that — not sure about it.

    Overall, it looks like a fairly well-conducted study to me. And, though not perfect, the results are interesting and may have general relevance.

    The additional info you provide helps.

    Thank you for it!

  • Zachary Shahan

    ECD Fan, thanks for the info. I changed the picture out. Goodbye, SHR-17

  • Are you aware that the product you are showing in the picture (SHR-17) has lost its UL certification and has been taken off the market? Can you tell us what its share will be by 2013?

    There is thin-film and then there is thin-film.

  • Are you aware that the product you are showing in the picture (SHR-17) has lost its UL certification and has been taken off the market? Can you tell us what its share will be by 2013?

    There is thin-film and then there is thin-film.

  • Are you aware that the product you are showing in the picture (SHR-17) has lost its UL certification and has been taken off the market? Can you tell us what its share will be by 2013?

    There is thin-film and then there is thin-film.

  • Are you aware that the product you are showing in the picture (SHR-17) has lost its UL certification and has been taken off the market? Can you tell us what its share will be by 2013?

    There is thin-film and then there is thin-film.

  • Jesse Williams

    Hi Zach,

    I’m a scientist that works on photovoltaics at a national lab, and I have a few things to point out. There are some very untrue statements in this article such as thin-film technology is less efficient, but I think this stems from misused nomenclature. Specifically thin-film and crystalline are misrepresented. They two different categories and not mutually exclusive. You can have thin-films solar cells or bulk material solar cells though bulk solar cells nearly always come from large single crystals, hence they are referred to as single crystal solar cells. Also, you can have crystalline or amorphous solar cells. Almost all types of solar cells are crystalline (they can be polycrystalline or single crystal). The amorphous exceptions are amorphous silicon and polymer-based solar cells.

    Let’s get to the efficiencies. Single crystal silicon solar cells have been massively researched so they’re relatively efficient. But their theoretical maximum efficient isn’t that great. Actually, silicon isn’t a great photovoltaic material (comparatively), but it’s used a lot because it’s already established by computer chip industry. SO I don’t see that efficiencies are going to increase that much and those single crystal wafers are pricy. There’s no way around the cost of single crystal wafers; that’s been researched to hell. Plus single-crystal technology is not scaleable. Long story short I don’t expect to see prices going down that much.

    Thin-film technology is a different story. It comes in all sorts of different materials. Some are cheap, easy, and inefficient (e.g.. amorphous silicon) while some are expensive, complicated, and highly efficient (e.g. triple junction solar cells). Whenever you read about new solar cell that’s made with record efficiencies, that’s a thin-film solar cell.

  • Jesse Williams

    Hi Zach,

    I’m a scientist that works on photovoltaics at a national lab, and I have a few things to point out. There are some very untrue statements in this article such as thin-film technology is less efficient, but I think this stems from misused nomenclature. Specifically thin-film and crystalline are misrepresented. They two different categories and not mutually exclusive. You can have thin-films solar cells or bulk material solar cells though bulk solar cells nearly always come from large single crystals, hence they are referred to as single crystal solar cells. Also, you can have crystalline or amorphous solar cells. Almost all types of solar cells are crystalline (they can be polycrystalline or single crystal). The amorphous exceptions are amorphous silicon and polymer-based solar cells.

    Let’s get to the efficiencies. Single crystal silicon solar cells have been massively researched so they’re relatively efficient. But their theoretical maximum efficient isn’t that great. Actually, silicon isn’t a great photovoltaic material (comparatively), but it’s used a lot because it’s already established by computer chip industry. SO I don’t see that efficiencies are going to increase that much and those single crystal wafers are pricy. There’s no way around the cost of single crystal wafers; that’s been researched to hell. Plus single-crystal technology is not scaleable. Long story short I don’t expect to see prices going down that much.

    Thin-film technology is a different story. It comes in all sorts of different materials. Some are cheap, easy, and inefficient (e.g.. amorphous silicon) while some are expensive, complicated, and highly efficient (e.g. triple junction solar cells). Whenever you read about new solar cell that’s made with record efficiencies, that’s a thin-film solar cell.

  • Jesse Williams

    Hi Zach,

    I’m a scientist that works on photovoltaics at a national lab, and I have a few things to point out. There are some very untrue statements in this article such as thin-film technology is less efficient, but I think this stems from misused nomenclature. Specifically thin-film and crystalline are misrepresented. They two different categories and not mutually exclusive. You can have thin-films solar cells or bulk material solar cells though bulk solar cells nearly always come from large single crystals, hence they are referred to as single crystal solar cells. Also, you can have crystalline or amorphous solar cells. Almost all types of solar cells are crystalline (they can be polycrystalline or single crystal). The amorphous exceptions are amorphous silicon and polymer-based solar cells.

    Let’s get to the efficiencies. Single crystal silicon solar cells have been massively researched so they’re relatively efficient. But their theoretical maximum efficient isn’t that great. Actually, silicon isn’t a great photovoltaic material (comparatively), but it’s used a lot because it’s already established by computer chip industry. SO I don’t see that efficiencies are going to increase that much and those single crystal wafers are pricy. There’s no way around the cost of single crystal wafers; that’s been researched to hell. Plus single-crystal technology is not scaleable. Long story short I don’t expect to see prices going down that much.

    Thin-film technology is a different story. It comes in all sorts of different materials. Some are cheap, easy, and inefficient (e.g.. amorphous silicon) while some are expensive, complicated, and highly efficient (e.g. triple junction solar cells). Whenever you read about new solar cell that’s made with record efficiencies, that’s a thin-film solar cell.

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