Advances in thin film PV could cut solar prices by one third

A breakthrough in the manufacture of thin film solar photovoltaic modules looks to be on the cards, with a solar PV developer in Silicon Valley claiming that they can cut the cost of manufacturing the modules by as much as one third, Australia’s RenewEconomy is reporting.

It’s been five years in development but after backing from a group of venture capital firms, California-based firm RSI has created a cadmium telluride PV (CdTe) module; at 1.5 square metres it is twice the size of conventional modules and is a new world record. Conventional CdTe modules measure just 0.72 square metres.

According to RSI the breakthrough will pave the way for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules to be produced at under 40c per Watt, which would make modules around one third cheaper compared to mass-produced thin film and silicon based PV modules currently dominating the market today. A low cost type of solar cell, CdTe’s main competing technology is crystalline silicon.

Pioneered by BP, today First Solar leads the pack as the largest manufacturer of thin film solar PV modules in the world. But while First Solar has predicated it wouldn’t achieve 40c/W until 2017 through increased efficiency, RSI claims it will be able to achieve that cost much earlier – by 2014 in fact. This is achievable by doubling the size of the module.

A significant breakthrough, it would hasten the march towards grid parity, making it achievable much earlier than expected. RSI now needs to agree licensee exclusive agreements with manufacturers before production begins next year.

As we all know over the last few years the cost of solar PV technology has fallen significantly, which has helped solar panels for renewable energy generation become the renewable technology of choice, aided of course by subsidies such as the feed-in tariff.

Currently the technology costs around 60c/W to 70c/W with a plateau at around 40c/W to 50c/W fast approaching. Wide spread grid parity has a long way to go but advances like this are a major step forward.


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