LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) panel manufacturers could be the driving force in reducing thin-film solar panel production costs, according to solar PV and clean technology developer Manz AG.
Leading LCD panel manufacturers, such as South Korea’s LG, Samsung Electronics, and Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Co. can produce thin-film solar PV modules at about $0.30 per Watt or less by converting their glass-manufacturing production lines to produce thin-film modules, Manz AG CEO Dieter Manz told Bloomberg News. That would be a precipitous cost reduction of around 60%, given that market leader First Solar manufactures thin-film solar modules at less than $0.75 per Watt.
LCD panel manufacturers that “can introduce thin-film technology to their glass-manufacturing may convert factories to produce thin-film solar panels when demand more than triples for electricity produced from sunlight,” he was reported to have said.
Powerful Interests Gather Round Thin-Film Solar Manufacturing
The Chinese government in May singled out and set thin-film solar PV manufacturing cost and production targets in its latest Five-Year Plan. According to the new Five-Year Plan, the Chinese government intends to provide some $1.5 trillion in subsidies to achieve targets set out for seven strategic emerging industries, including thin-film solar PV.
Other large multinationals are also interested in producing thin-film solar modules. Last October, GE announced it would invest as much as $600 million in building a thin-film solar manufacturing plant in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
So is Foxconn, which manufactures iPhones for Apple. Foxconn in December announced it would build a solar PV manufacturing plant in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. In April, Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista told reporters that Foxconn would build solar panels and car batteries at the Acu Port site in Rio de Janeiro state his business group owns.
First Solar’s thin-film solar modules use semiconductors made of cadmium telluride (CdTe), which poses environmental and supply chain risks that manufacturers, including GE and the Chinese government, are looking to avoid by using copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) semiconductors.
LCD Panel Makers Looking to Enter the Thin-Film Solar PV Market
Some 30 GW of solar PV capacity was installed globally in 2011. LCD panel manufacturers will enter the thin-film solar PV market once it reaches around 100 GW a year, according to Manz. “In three years, more than half the players will be new entrants,” Manz said in an interview in Munich June 13. “Samsung, LG, Foxconn, all of them will come. For them it was too small before, so they wait for the market to be 100 gigawatts and then they step in.”
Manz has been expanding its thin-film CIGS activities from its base in the southwestern German State of Baden-Wurttemberg. The Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Wurttemberg (ZSW Stuttgart) completed its first thin-film CIGS production line in 1975. Manz AG acquired neighboring Wurth Solar’s CIGS innovation production line this year and has since gone on to achieve a ‘record production size module with a 14.4% conversion efficiency (15.1% on aperture).’
Manz is now offering an integrated, turnkey thin-film CIGS innovation line in the marketplace. Initial orders are anticipated this year, with companies from China, as well as other regions, expressing interest, Manz told Bloomberg.
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