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Solar Production Technology
Solar Industry is building on high efficiency
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The solar crisis is also weakening the solar mechanical engineers. They want to bring themselves back into play with new lines for high-efficiency cells. (Photo: Roth & Rau)
Meyer Burger subsidiary Roth & Rau has developed a production line for heterojunction cells that deliver more than 20 percent efficiency. To date, Sanyo held the intellectual property rights to this technology. (Photo: Roth & Rau)
New procedure:show photos
In order to equip cells featuring passivated rears with contacts, this protective layer is opened in a point-wise fashion using a laser in a new procedure. (Photo: Schmid Group)
Silver-free rear:show photos
Silver is a critical cost factor in the manufacture of cells. For this reason, it is becoming increasingly common for the rear contacts to be made with tin instead of silver. (Photo: Schmid Group)
Can Winfried Hoffmann still be saved? The solar manufacturers are in a deep crisis, and the President of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) is predicting a "promising future" for them. "The triumphal march of photovoltaics can no longer be stopped," says Hoffmann. EPIA's prediction, meanwhile, is that if solar installations and simpler approval procedures continue to be funded, the proportion of solar energy within European power supply will increase tenfold to 25 percent by 2030.
But there is hardly any reason for the high level of optimism at present. Chinese solar manufacturers totally over-estimated demand and built immense production complexes for solar modules. Now, massive over-capacities are ensuring that prices are falling faster than the producers can lower their costs. Shrinking margins have already driven numerous European manufacturers into insolvency. In addition, many countries offering compensation for feeding solar electricity into the grid are cutting the subsidies due to the high funding costs. In Germany, for instance, the support is to come to an end once 52 GW of total power has been installed. But because this year, it is likely that more than 30 GW of overall installations is to be achieved, the funding cap is likely to take hold before 2020.
Not everything is lost for the solar industry, however. "Now, cost-cutting innovations, with which the companies can brave the price fall more easily, are decisive," says Markus Fischer, Vice-Chairperson of the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics (ITRPV), a Working Group in the European semiconductor association, SEMI. The industry therefore opted for quick innovations and an ambitious aim was determined in the ITRPV: By 2020, the efficiency of crystalline silicon cells is to increase by three percentage points to up to 23 percent. Thanks to the enhanced efficiency and silicon savings, the photovoltaic learning curve is henceforth reducing quicker. Indeed, to date, the costs have fallen by an average of 20 percent per year; in the future, meanwhile, savings of 29 percent are to be achieved.