In-Depth: Spate of investments in European thin-film companies depict a rosy picture

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

Thin-Film Today’s Joshua Bull presents an in-depth look at the recent spate of investment in European thin-film companies.

The EU recently reinforced its commitment to renewable energy with an EU-wide directive that commits the EU to 20% renewable energy targets by 2020.

Specifically from the solar industry perspective, a lot would depend upon Germany’s continued support.
Going by the recent past, there have quite a few developments, which show progress in the thin-film module segment, especially in Germany.
Last month, the European Commission backed nearly €100 million euros ($129 million) in aid to two solar power projects in Germany.
The Commission authorised, under EC Treaty state aid rules, €56 million of regional investment aid, which the German authorities awarded to Sunfilm for the production of thin-film solar modules in Saxony. (Good Energies and Norsun have established Sunfilm to manufacture 5.7m² tandem thin-film photovoltaic modules on glass substrates on a production line supplied by Applied Materials).
The balance of around €40 million of aid was approved for ersol Thin Film for the production of thin-film solar modules in Erfurt.
Post this aid, ersol, a company of the Bosch Group, projected an output of around 30 MWp in the thin-film segment, despite the current difficulties on the market. ersol, which operates a production line for thin-film modules based on amorphous silicon (Nova T series), has also shared plans for  amorphous-microcrystalline tandem cell technology for silicon thin-film technology.
Among others, Sontor, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Q-Cells, produced and sold 3.6 MWp of modules last year. Sontor’s plans for 2009 are to further improve the utilisation of the 24-MWp production capacity. Additionally, Sontor plans to increase the R&D activities in Bitterfeld-Wolfen. Also, the ramp-up of the first production facility for micromorph silicon thin-film modules in Solar Valley Thalheim is on schedule.
The company produces micromorph silicon thin-film photovoltaic modules, which consist of two extremely thin layers of silicon (one amorphous and one crystalline) on glass. Last month, Torsten Brammer, CTO, Sontor, shared that the modules are achieving stable efficiency levels of up to 8% in relation to the 1.8 sq metre total area of the module. At cell level, stable values of up to 9.3% efficiency on the active surface have already been achieved in the current ramp-up phase.
Commenting on the most promising opportunities for various thin-film technologies in Europe, Paula Mints, Principal Analyst PV Services Program, Navigant Consulting, said all thin-film technologies have a role to play in the future direction of the solar industry. 
“Though, the next year at least will be difficult, there is stronger global acceptance of thin films.  That is, for the most part, these technologies are no longer viewed as a risky choice. In sum, during the downturn, thin films can continue to progress towards higher efficiency and lower manufacturing cost – though, all lower cost does is give more cushion in the  margin,” said Mints, who is scheduled to speak during Thin Film Solar Summit Europe, scheduled to take place on May 19-20 in Berlin.
According to Mints, as demand is softer in the near term, technology development from pilot scale to commercialisation will be less pressured.
“For the past couple of years there were high and unrealistic expectations placed on the time to commercialisation — these need to be viewed more realistically.  It is more important that a technology perform well, than it is that it gets out of the gate quickly,” she said
“During slower times, innovations in BOS (balance of systems) to make less efficient thin films less expensive to install can (and should be) pursued. In the end, thin films are appropriate for rooftop and ground applications and highly appropriate for BIPV (building integrated PV). Though BIPV is barely a niche market at the moment, the development of flexible products and new form factors can move the industry more towards green building. All applications and all technologies are necessary to help Europe meet its goal,” Mints added.
Progressing from pilot scale to commercialisation
With reference to progress made by Sontor, Mints feels that all micromorph manufacturers are about in the same place. Companies such as Uni-Solar (U.S.), Kaneka (Japan), and others have been pursing development of this technology for several years. 
“It takes a long time to progress from pilot scale to commercialisation, and I put most of these manufacturers at either pilot scale, or emerging into an initial stage of commercial production.  As the PV industry is in for at least one year of slower demand, possibly two, there is time for necessary efficiency improvements for micromorph,” she said.

“I don’t see this as a situation with one clear winner, more as a situation where different paths will emerge as more successful than others. All paths need to lead towards higher efficiency, and I would say that this should be >8% to start and much more competitive at 10%.  However, this is not trivial.  The industry needs all of the micromorph technologies (no matter the region) to emerge at a successful efficiency and manufacturing cost.  We need to learn from each other.  In sum, it is early days yet, let’s give these emerging technology paths time to emerge,” she concluded.

The Thin Film Solar Summit Europe 2009 takes place May 19-20, 2009, in the Kempinski Hotel, Berlin, Germany. Further information is available here.

26 January 2022
Join this free webinar for our analysis of the growth of N-Type technology including; new capacity expansions and production output. We'll also be looking at the global manufacturing footprint with forecasts on how much product will be made outside of China this year and which companies are driving technology change across the crystalline silicon value chain.
23 February 2022
Held annually since 2016, the Energy Storage Summit Europe is the place to be for senior stakeholders in the European storage industry. Designed to accelerate deployment of storage, we examine evolving chemistries, business models, project design, revenue stacks and use cases for storage. The 2022 edition will include exclusive content around longer duration solutions, energy strategies for wide-scale deployment of EVs and "EnTech", the event which sits at the intersection of digitisation, decentralisation and decarbonation of the power system. Come to meet TSOs, DSOs, Utilities, Developers, Investors and Lenders and leave with new contacts, partners and a wealth of information.
7 March 2022
Take your chance to join the most powerful platform in the MENA region. Middle East Energy (MEE), Intersolar, and ees, the leading energy exhibitions are joining hands to co-deliver an outstanding renewables and energy storage event at Middle East Energy 2021. Renewables and energy storage at MEE is the largest gathering of solar and renewable energy industry professionals in the Middle East & Africa, offering the most effective trade focused platform to international manufacturers and distributors looking to meet regional buyers.
8 March 2022
As Solar Finance & Investment enters its ninth year, we sit on the cusp of a new power market with solar at its heart. The 2022 edition of the event will build on our years of expertise and relationships to bring investors and lenders together with top developers. Connect with leaders in the field and use exclusive insights to drive investment and development decisions for the future. Meet new and existing project partners at the largest gathering of European solar investors and lenders.
23 March 2022
When it comes to storage, the US market exceeded a gigawatt of advanced energy storage installations (weighted towards lithium ion) at 1.46 GW, more than the previous six years in total! An exponential growth rate could see the market hit 7.5 GW p.a. by 2025. The summit will provide a wealth of content around this vital piece in the US power puzzle, with sessions dedicated to explore how companies are making money from batteries, the latest chemistries and their applications as they apply to different use-cases. We ask how investors can match ESG criteria to batteries and we will bring case studies of successful deployment and project execution onto the stage to examine how you can ensure your own projects are successful.
29 March 2022
Now in its 10th sell-out year, Large Scale Solar returns to Lisbon in 2022. We are excited to gather together face-to-face with the European solar industry as we provide unique and exclusive access to a powerful selection of the market's key stakeholders. Join this elite summit to find out how the market is maturing, which new markets are becoming more exciting, how technology is evolving and who's driving the market forward into the 2020s. Always senior, packed with developers, EPCs, utilities and investors this is the event for companies serious about European solar PV.

Read Next

January 20, 2022
Mississippi authorities have expanded the state’s net metering programme to improve total compensation rates for solar customers and prioritise the adoption of distributed PV for low- to moderate-income (LMI) households.
January 20, 2022
US residential solar lender Dividend Finance is to be acquired by Ohio-based banking company Fifth Third.
January 20, 2022
Independent power producer (IPP) Cordelio Power has secured a 900MWac pipeline of solar projects in New York and Pennsylvania from project developer SunEast Renewables.
January 20, 2022
Distributed PV installations in China topped 29GW last year, contributing more than half of total solar installations in the country for the first time.
January 20, 2022
President Joe Biden believes he can win support for the energy and environmental initiatives included in his Build Back Better (BBB) Act, saying he is confident of getting “big chunks” of the US$1.75 billion legislation signed into law.
January 20, 2022
Swiss fund manager SUSI Partners has set up a new renewables platform that will build a portfolio of solar PV and wind assets in Poland.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
January 26, 2022
Free Webinar
Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 8, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal