Building a Viable Solar Sector

I recently wrote a piece for EnergyBiz Magazine on advancing solar manufacturing technology to enable solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to become a significant part of the global energy portfolio by lowering the cost-per-watt. The following is a brief excerpt from the article.

There are two ways to lower the cost-per-watt: increase conversion efficiency and lower manufacturing cost. These can be accomplished simultaneously. History shows us how powerful economies of scale can be. In the last two years, for example, the price of crystalline silicon-based panels fell by more than 30 percent as new capacity came on line.

Increasing efficiency is an additional lever available to PV manufacturers. With higher efficiency, a given manufacturing line has greater capacity. Fewer modules are needed to create an installation with a given power output, lowering the balance of system cost. Additionally, higher power modules can give a manufacturer a differentiated product in a crowded market.

New techniques to raise efficiency that add manufacturing steps must be accompanied by improved manufacturing processes to offset the extra complexity. This has been proven in multiple production settings over the recent past with double-printed contact lines. Although the approach requires an additional screen printer with exacting alignment capabilities, the incremental capital cost has a payback period well under one year and adds up to 0.5 percent absolute efficiency increase.

Visit the EnergyBiz web site to access the full article.

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