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Solar Production Technology
Thin-film comeback planned
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Made in Asia: Thin-film giant First Solar outsources the production of many modules to the Far East currently. Otherwise, the costs do not add up. (First Solar)
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Thin-film boomshow photos
Setting the standardsshow photos
Wonder cellshow photos
Future thin-film cells are made of cheap semiconductors and will be printed. However, up to now, they have only existed in laboratories. (IBM)
The situation in the photovoltaic industry remains strained. Manufacturers of thin-film and crystalline modules are suffering from a global oversupply, which has caused the prices to slide beneath the production cost level. In addition, the former starting advantage of the thin-film, which was that it did not have to rely on crystalline silicon as a semiconductor, has fizzled out. On the spot market, silicon is cheaper than ever before – for this reason, the industry does not currently need any alternative semiconductor and production processes to be able to manufacture cost-efficient cells. The result is a wave of bankruptcies, which washed over the first thin-film suppliers back in 2010.
Even the market leader, First Solar is floundering. It has cut back its production and is gradually withdrawing from Europe. With its cadmium-telluride modules, First Solar was the protagonist of the thin-film boom in 2008 and 2009 – there was barely a single major project which was not equipped with modules from the Americans in these years. However, the great era of thin-film power stations is past for now. According to a recent study by Boston-based market research company GTM Research, the market share of the slim-line electricity generators has dropped by half since 2009, to ten percent. Their place has been taken by multi-crystalline silicon cells, which now cover almost 60 percent of the solar market.