Some analysts forecasts explosive growth of 70% CAGR in the thin film sector from 2007 through 2010. Indeed, not only did thin film behemoth First Solar report record earnings last week, we have also seen a flurry of thin film deal announcements:
- Oerlikon Solar and Chinese company Baoding Tianwei sign a deal for a turnkey thin-film PV module production line in
. Bao Ding, China
- China Nuvo establishes a pilot copper indium gallium selenium thin film plant in
. Chengdu, China
- Peng Xiaogend, the CEO of LDK Solar is starting his own separate thin film venture.
Xunlight announces it has received $22 million in investments. Although its thin film technology is, unlike most thin film technologies, silicon-based, it has plans to commercialize cadmium telluride-based thinn film.
- Vertically-integrated OptiSolar received $38.3 million in funding earlier this year.
- Sencera raises $3.6 million to build a 1MW PV manufacturing platform.
- Suniva raised $50 million and recently made it to the Greentech Media's Top Ten list.
- Sunovia, a cadmium-telluride specialist, raised $12 million and some say this is the company that may give First Solar a run for its money.
A European engineer at the 6th Solar Silicon Conference in Munich, Germany, April 1-3, 2008 says it best:People have laughed about thin film, now they don't laugh anymore, and in two to three years you will see First Solar as biggest thin film producer going through the roof. Imagine the decline in silicon usage with thin film.
Rather than discard silicon altogether, some companies are replacing polysilcion with metallurgical grade silicon (mSi). Q-cells, among the word's top solar module manufacturers, is taking a step in that direction by using mSi , almost exclusively at an upcoming 160 MW Line VII of its 300 MW solar cell facility in Malaysia. The mSi will be supplied by Becancour Silicon, a division of Timminco.
According to this article,
Metallurgical-grade silicon is vastly cheaper to produce and ramp than polysilicon. Granted, the purity levels are lower and efficiencies suffer, but development work at Becancour Silicon has shown that impurity levels have been reduced dramatically in only a few years, especially in relation to boron, carbon and oxygen levels.mSi-based solar panels have? I can't say for sure yet; my canvass of abstracts of scientific articles on the web suggest anywhere between the 8 to 10% range (which is comparable to thin film cells in real-life, i.e. non-lab, conditions), but I have not been able to confirm if these are in lab or real-life conditions. I hope to uncover more insight for you in future posts.