I’m catching up on some videos I wanted to publish back in January following this year’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week*. This one below is a presentation of First Solar’s numerous advantages by Nick Strevel, Technical Sales Manager at First Solar. If you haven’t closely followed the solar PV industry for the past half decade, let me first provide a bit of industry context:
Thin-film solar PV panels (primarily from First Solar) were gaining in market share quickly a handful of years ago thanks to their lower cost. Then, crystalline silicon solar PV panel prices fell through the floor. First Solar’s business kept moving along, but the expected burst in market share was prevented (… or perhaps delayed).
As the video below shows, First Solar’s thin-film solar PV panels have been increasing in efficiency extremely fast in recent years while crystalline silicon solar PV panel efficiency has been sitting still. Furthermore, First Solar’s panels perform better in the field compared to their rated efficiency. In other words, First Solar may see a boost in market share before too long after all. We’ll see. In the end, it doesn’t come down to efficiency but cost.
Watch the video for more details on thin-film solar panel advantages, or check out the summary bullet points below it.
First Solar’s Thin-Film Solar Panel Advantages
- Heat is tough on solar PV panels, but even more so on conventional crystalline silicon solar panels. First Solar’s thin-film solar panels lose less efficiency in high temperatures, often making them a better buy in hot climates like deserts where large solar farms are often sited. (Put in other words, a First Solar module with the same power output rating as a crystalline solar PV module actually provides more electricity in the field, and a lot more electricity in hot climates.)
- Similarly, First Solar’s PV modules are reportedly at the higher end of the reliability spectrum.
- First Solar uses a lot of automation to build its solar modules, bringing down cost and also ensuring quality consistency.
- After trading places with GE for years on CdTe efficiency records for years, First Solar finally bought GE’s CdTe intellectual property.
- The efficiency increase of CdTe efficiency in recent years is “unrivaled” in the solar PV industry.
- The efficiency record of conventional multicrystalline silicon (20.4%) was set in 2004, and First Solar is now closing in on that record. (Monocrystalline silicon’s efficiency record was last set in 1999!)
- Adjusted for the effect of heat on the solar modules, First Solar’s thin-film solar modules are generally as efficient as multicrystalline solar PV panels already.
- First Solar’s module testing is intense.
*Full Disclosure: Masdar covered my transportation to and accommodation at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2014.
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