Second-generation ThinFab turnkey system from Oerlikon Solar sets lowest module costs

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Oerlikon Solar’s second-generation ThinFab turnkey system is claimed to enable a CapEx reduction of more than 20%. The estimated price for the complete end-to-end production line is just US$1/Wp including engineering support and performance guarantees. The production line is claimed to produce high quality thin film silicon modules for cost of around $ 0.5/Wp (€ 0.35/Wp), a new record-low in the solar industry.

Problem

The rapid decline in conventional crystalline silicon module production costs has wiped-out a significant part of the cost advantage once benefiting thin-film module producers. As falling polysilicon prices continue to find their way through to volume module producers in 2012, the pressure on thin film cost reduction intensifies. Compared to other solar manufacturing processes, the production of Oerlikon thin film silicon modules is claimed to require the least amount of energy. The ‘energy payback’ time with Oerlikon technology is said to be less than one year.

Solution

Key improvements to the second-generation ThinFab include increased manufacturing line output, guaranteed higher module efficiency and new narrow-gap reactor design for silicon deposition. The upgraded ThinFab is said to provide a guaranteed average module efficiency of 10.8 % (154Wp) – an increase of 8 % – and a 17 % higher output capacity compared with the 1st generation. The system has a claimed 65% higher throughput and 45% lower cost of ownership compared to the previous generation. Best-in-class transmittance and light trapping is said to enable a high-efficiency thin absorber layer, while the extended maintenance cycles allow higher system availability.

Applications

Integrated Micromorph process for thin film module manufacturing.

Platform

The second-generation ThinFab system employs a new narrow gap ‘Plasma Box’ for top layer quality at fastest speed. An enhanced process module gate valve isolation technology allows the shortest system time and provides for higher redundancy. Gas and electricity usage per module is reduced by a claimed 30%. It has a faster process through 50% takt-time reduction and an improved temperature coefficient of 0.26% / °C Power maximum power point (Pmpp). TCO corrosion resistance is improved, even with transformerless inverters, leading to up to 3% higher energy yield. The fully automated backend line has 40% higher productivity compared to previous backend generation with the flexibility to produce high and low voltage modules. It also comes with a reduced carbon footprint (by 1500 tons of CO2 per year) over the previous system. The Transfer of IEC61646/61730 master certificate at start of production allows short time-to-market.

Availability

January 2012 onwards.

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