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Thin Panels Having Problems
The rapidly sinking price of silicon modules is worrying thin-film manufacturers.
Thin-film is coming under pressure: In particular, the belief is that modules made from thin-film silicon can be manufactured much more cost-effectively than thick crystalline ones. However, the technology is trailing far behind its efficiency and cost objectives. By contrast, innovations are developing more quickly than thought in terms of crystalline innovations.
Photo gallery to the topic Thin Panels Having Problems
Giant modulesshow photos
Solar panels made from thin-film silicon are the largest, but least efficient on the market.
From the warehouseshow photos
Signet’s thin-film modules can only be transported individually due to their size and weight.
Surface colossusshow photos
Many thin-film modules are manufactured on the Sunfab from Applied Materials.
Solar until the horizonshow photos
The red appearance is typical for modules based on amorphous silicon.
Good for someshow photos
While some manufacturers of thin-film modules are currently battling for survival, the founders of Inventux are optimistic. Their module made of micromorphous silicon is very popular.
Sunfilm and Signet Solar have a lot in common: They have the “sun” in their names, were founded in 2006 and have succeeded in considerably reducing solar energy costs with their thin-film silicon modules. And, in the spring, both companies filed for bankruptcy.
Everything began with such promise. In 2006, classic silicon modules were still very expensive due to the high silicon costs. Newcomers allegedly had a walkover: They only had to replace the solid semiconductors with a cheaper absorber. Above all, the silicon thin-film appeared right on cur: It needed a hundred times less silicon than crystalline modules and could be manufactured far more cost-effectively as a result. Amorphous silicon (a-Si) is applied at almost 200 degrees. For wafer-based cells on the other hand, ovens had to be fired to 1500 degrees for hours, which devoured far more energy. The silicon thin-film attracted many newcomers for this reason. Mechanical engineering companies such as Oerlikon or Applied Materials offered completely equipped production lines for a-Si modules very early on. And they promised low production costs: On their lines, a watt was to be produced for between just 0.70 and 0.85 dollars by 2010. With such attractive promises, creditors appeared generous and supported many new thin-film producers. Industry experts, such as Arnulf Jäger-Waldau, warned that due to a lack of expertise, capacities would be built-up which would be doomed to fail from the outset.