PV Roadmap: Moving Target but Critical Compass for Industry

Applied Materials invited me to write a blog post about SEMI’s recently released the 4th edition of the ITRPV, the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics to highlight the importance of establishing an industry direction for R&D and planning. The ITRPV outlines expected technology developments and helps set a basis for dialog about required improvements and standards. The ITRPV effort began in 2008 in Europe and was the first SEMI effort to bring the photovoltaic (PV) industry together around shared challenges and a consensus outlook on where Crystalline-silicon (c-Si) is going.

A look into the future is always difficult, especially if you are trying to get competitors to sit down together and actually share assessments and trends. Transcending business, however, and focusing on technology developments has proven to be immensely important to unite an industry and identify issues that can and should be tackled collectively. That’s one reason we named it the ITRPV, in recognition of the many contributions - hundreds, if not thousands of people made over the past few decades to create — and keep alive — the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS).

The ITRPV addresses topics along the manufacturing value chain — materials, processes and products. These topics are color-coded to signify that: a solution exists and is production-ready (green); a solution is known, but not yet in production (yellow); or a solution is still beyond our grasp (red). Experts from leading equipment, materials, cell and module companies have worked together to make inroads on all three fronts — from the development of industry standards (check out SEMI’s published PV Standards) to very concrete cost reduction efforts, e.g. eliminating silver paste from the process.

Roadmaps are difficult, complex, faulty, moving targets. . . all these things. Needs, stakeholders and outlooks change, evolve, and create controversy long before any consensus emerges. But they are brave attempts of a young or maturing industry to chart its future. The ITRPV is one such example, giving the global PV industry a compass and path forward. Applied Materials certainly understands the need for solar roadmaps to drive technology advancements and enable customers to reach their efficiency and cost-per-watt goals.   

At SEMI, we encourage companies who are part of the PV manufacturing process to check out this latest ITRPV edition, to comment, contribute and help make it better.

PV is struggling, but it is only a matter of time — 2014? — before we get back into making solar cells to supply even most remote places on the planet with clean energy. The ITRPV is a critical tool to achieving cost reduction goals and contributing to an industry that will make a huge difference in how we power our world.

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