Applied’s Technologists in Photovoltaics World Magazine
Applied Materials’ Ken MacWilliams, Jen Shu, Andrea Moretto and Farhan Ahmad contributed to an article in the latest issue of Photovoltaics World magazine, where they focus on lower cost crystalline silicon solar panels and their potential to help us reach grid parity -- where the cost to generate power on rooftops meets the cost to purchase power from the grid. Below is an excerpt from the article:
The solar industry has shown a 7% year over year cost reduction, most of which stems from improvements in manufacturing. As the industry strives to reach grid parity at all times, not just at peak demand, it is essential to continue improving manufacturing efficiencies. To achieve this goal and build the solar fabs of the future, innovations in automation and factory throughput must be implemented.
Automation. Future factories will grow larger to gain economies of scale and to support the increasing demand for solar cells. These factories are expected to be from 500MW to 1GW in capacity, compared with today’s norm of 50-200MW. Also, in order to fabricate higher efficiency cells, manufacturers will move to more complex process flows that require 10-15 process steps, compared to 7 today. The result is that the number of wafer movements will increase by a factor of ten. This dramatic increase will require expanded factory automation. Furthermore, improvements in wafer handling will be required as wafer thicknesses decrease from ~180μm today to 120-140μm
High productivity cell processing. The cost of each processing step must be reduced in order to drive down the cost of solar. This requires high productivity systems optimized for individual processes to gain the highest overall processing speed with minimum maintenance. The industry’s target for the next generations of tools is to double throughput within the same footprint.
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