Thin Film Intelligence Brief 18 - 31 January 2012

CIGS market on track to double by 2015 Companies mentioned: Mitsubishi Plastics, Global Solar Energy, Solar-Tectic, Dartmouth College, Oerlikon Solar, SolarBridge Technologies, Solartec, GE and Invenergy

Thin Film Intelligence Brief 18 - 31 January 2012

CIGS market to double by 2015

The market for solar installations based on copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film panels is expected to double in size to $2.35bn billion in 2015, as manufacturers signaled a breakout year in 2011 by taking advantage of falling production costs, improving module conversion efficiencies and increasing adoption in commercial rooftops, according to a Lux Research report.

According to Plastics Today, Mitsubishi Plastics in Tokyo estimates that CIGS based cells will account for approximately 5% of the 40-50 GW solar cell market by 2015. Mitsubishi Plastics' multi-layer film comprises a fluorine-based layer on the surface that is exposed to the environment, adhesive layers sandwiching a silica deposition film barrier layer, a polyester film layer, and an EVA encapsulant layer that comes into direct contact with the solar cells.

The company has built a plant in Tsukuba, Japan to manufacture front sheets for flexible thin film cells. The $26m facility can produce of 16 million sq. meters of film annually up to a maximum width of 1,300 mm, said the report. Its first customer is Tucson, Arizona-based Global Solar Energy. 

Solar-Tectic granted global license

Solar-Tectic has been granted a world-wide exclusive license for a method of manufacturing single crystal silicon thin-films on ordinary glass  over a large area, thus allowing for the commercialization of single crystal silicon thin-film solar cells for the first time.

Dartmouth College invention was initially inspired by a related technology disclosed by the late Dr. Praveen Chaudhari, renowned materials scientist and winner of the National Medal of Technology. Solar-Tectic had a sponsored research agreement with the College.

A patent application for this invention has been filed by Dartmouth College with the United States Patent Office.

The technology allows single-crystal thin-films (composed of Si, Ge, GaAs, CdTe, CIGS, etc) to be monolithically fabricated on large-area amorphous substrates such as ordinary glass and at a cost that is orders of magnitude lower than the price of manufacturing crystalline silicon solar cells (or c-Si).

According to the researchers and Solar-Tectic, compared to existing thin-film solar cell materials, this invention can increase efficiency by ~2x due to a significant improvement in material quality.

Oerlikon launches new 'thinfab', cell record

Oerlikon Solar presented its second generation ThinFab, an end-to-end production line for manufacturing sus-tainable solar modules at low cost and high quality, at the recently concluded World Future Energy Summit 2012 (WFES) in Abu Dhabi.

The new design claims to reduce capital expenditure by 23 per cent to just $1/Wp including engineering support and performance guarantees.

The production line enables customers to produce high-quality thin film silicon mod-ules for costs of around $ 0.5/Wp, a record in the solar industry.

Oerlikon Solar also announced a new record thin film silicon cell. At 12.5 per cent, the efficiency of this lab cell is 1.7 percentage points higher than the large scale production modules of the second generation Thin-Fab (an increase of 16 per cent).

The second generation ThinFab is now available for market.

SolarBridge, Solartec partner in Mexico

SolarBridge Technologies, which develops module-integrated microinverters for the solar industry is partnering with Solartec Energia Renovable to introduce AC modules to Mexico.

Solartec will manufacture and sell AC modules powered by SolarBridge Pantheon microinverters into the Mex-ican market.

IMS Research has identified Mexico as a market with very high potential for future PV deployment and predicts it to become one of the fastest growing markets, with installations increasing at a rate of over 200 percent over the next four years.

Solartec's S60MC is a 240-watt monocrystalline AC module that converts DC power from each solar module to grid-compliant AC power. The S60MC features a SolarBridge Pantheon microinverter that is factory-installed on the back of the module.

The integrated assembly is backed by a single 25-year warranty. Solartec plans to begin shipping S60MC mod-ules later this quarter.

Solartec's S60MC is also certified by Mexico's FIDE (Fideicomiso Para El Ahorro De Energia Electrica).

GE deploys hybrid solar farm

GE is set to deploy a new energy project that combines thin film solar panels and wind energy in a small village called Grand Ridge, Illinois. With a population of 550, the village is in the Corn Belt flatlands stretching south and west of Chicago. Winters are windy and mostly overcast, while the summer months tend to be calmer and sunnier, which suits hybrid energy plants.

The idea is that when the long nights set in and the breeze kicks up, wind power will replace idled solar capacity. The reverse will occur during long and radiant summer days.

“We’ve built 30 gigawatts of wind farms so adding solar is a good utilization of assets,” Vic Abate, vice president of GE’s Renewable Energy business told Forbes.

In 2009, GE supplied 140 wind turbines to the farm’s operator, Invenergy, which generates  210 megawatts of electricity. It will now supply the technology for Invenergy’s new solar farm, also in Grand Ridge.

GE is building a new thin-film solar panel factory near Denver, in Aurora, Colorado. The plant will create 355 jobs and is expected to open in 2013.