The future of the silicon thin-film market is looking bleak, according to a new report from EnergyTrend, a research division of TrendForce.
After the (relatively) recent announcement from DuPont that it was planning to terminate its silicon thin-film operations, questions have certainly begun to come up about how much longer the market can keep going. And, according to EnergyTrend, the answer to that question is a steady decline.
“Judging from recent price quotes, silicon thin-film price quotes is at US$0.58/watt while silicon module is at US$0.6/watt. (The) price difference has decreased from the original US$0.1/watt to US$0.02/watt. Therefore, silicon thin-film product no longer holds price competitiveness,” explained EnergyTrend’s research manager Arthur Hsu.
“Meanwhile, silicon module conversion efficiency is around 17.2% while silicon thin-film remains at (around) 8% to 10%. (The) efficiency gap between the two will continue to increase as silicon module efficiency goes up.”
Previously, the general hope had been for the commercialization of Oerlikon’s Tandem-Junction amorphous silicon technology to help revive the market, but with the closing down of the company’s micromorph thin-film production line operations in January 2014, that clearly isn’t going to happen anymore.
The rest of the solar industry continues to chug along healthily, though, so the loss isn’t terrible, but it does narrow the possibilities somewhat. Solar power clearly has a bright future, but not all solar technologies will triumph.
Speaking of recent advances in the industry, it appears as though a solar cell with a 50% conversion efficiency is getting closer by the day. North Carolina–based Semprius recently announced a key step towards that goal with the creation of a new four-junction, four-terminal solar cell that can reach efficiencies as high as 43.9%.
Image Credit: DuPont