Thursday, March 29, 2012

About 35 GWp of new solar cell manufacturing equipment will be purchased by 2017

LYON, FRANCE: Yole Développement announced its report “Crystalline Silicon PV: Technology, Equipment & Materials”.

The market is now driven by high PV efficiency and cost decrease. In the years to come, the manufacturing cost reduction in the PV industry will be led by equipment and material innovations. As only a part of the whole existing crystalline silicon manufacturing capacity is suited to the production of very high efficiency solar cells and modules, Yole Développement assumes that a part of the manufacturing capacity will be shut down or used at low utilization rates, and new capacities suited for very high efficiency products will be added. This provides an opportunity for PV equipment manufacturers to find customers despite existing production overcapacities.

“About 35 GWp of new solar cell manufacturing equipment will be purchased by 2017,” says Milan Rosina, Technology and Market Analyst, Photovoltaics at Yole Développement. Under Yole Développement’s report, the main technologies and corresponding equipment used in c-Si solar cell and module manufacturing are analyzed in detail. For each equipment, its description, main characteristics, innovations and market trends, 2011-2017 market figures and main suppliers are given. The challenges and opportunities for equipment manufacturers are also provided.

High PV efficiency is a key driver for costs decrease
Current technology and market consolidation are revealing an increased interest in high-efficiency cell and module approaches. Yole Développement provides details on how high PV efficiency enables product differentiation and cuts on manufacturing and system costs and “Levelized Cost of Electricity” (LCOE).

Different very high cell and module efficiency approaches are reviewed, showing the opportunities for crystalline silicon as well as for some thin-film PV manufacturers. In order to reach very high cell and module efficiency (respectively, over 19 percent and 16 percent), specific technology approaches, new materials and new equipment are required. Materials such as quasimono silicon wafers and new equipment (ion implant tools, amorphous silicon deposition tools) are reviewed and their potential is analyzed. The factors that have to be taken into consideration during the development of new equipment for very high efficiency solar cells are also discussed.

How to stay profitable in PV business
Thanks to incentive policies, in the past the photovoltaic market experienced double digit average annual growth rates and more than 27GWp were installed during the year 2011. This resulted in a massive increase of the manufacturing capacities to cover the increasing demand. However, recently, lowered incentive mechanisms resulted in a market demand lower than expected.

In consequence, high manufacturing overcapacities and module inventory result in a strong price pressure on the PV market and finally leads to technology and market consolidation. PV cell and module manufacturers as well as PV material and equipment suppliers are facing hard times and are trying to find a solution on how to keep their business profitable.

Different manufacturers and suppliers strategies are reviewed in this part of the report. “Today, the key objective of PV manufacturers is no longer to increase their production capacities, but to differentiate themselves from their competitors in an overcrowded market thanks to added value products (with lower price, higher efficiency),” explains Milan. Innovations in field of PV equipment, materials and manufacturing processes are thus more important than ever.Source: Yole Développement, France.

Why crystalline silicon remains a leading PV technology?
As photovoltaics becomes a commodity market and many different PV products are commercially available, the old vision of a PV technology development in which thin-film PV technologies would progressively increase their market shares has become obsolete. Through the last years, the technology progress in crystalline silicon (c-Si) technology has surpassed all expectations.

Today, the c-Si modules are available at prices close or even lower than $1 per Wp, comparable with those of the thin-film PV modules, while their efficiency is significantly higher, providing the system level a premium value. The main advantages of c-Si as well as the potential for further improvement of c-Si manufacturing costs and performances are discussed here in detail. The technology performance and applications are compared with thin-film PV technologies (amorphous silicon, CdTe, CIGS).

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