Solar panel manufacturers need to acquire innovative production equipment in order to cut costs, increase margins, and offer differentiated products, a report issued by Lux Research’s Solar Components Intelligence service has warned.
Fatima Toor, Lux Research analyst and lead author of the report, Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Opportunities in the Turbulent Photovoltaic Equipment Market, said: “Across the industry there is recognition that innovation is needed to survive a shakeout.”
Lux Research analysts examined the PV production equipment landscape to identify opportunities for innovation.
The report found:
• There is opportunity in reducing silicon costs. Current wafer sawing techniques waste silicon; in contrast, technologies, such as direct solidification and epitaxial silicon, eliminate the need for wafer sawing. Emerging quasi-monocrystalline silicon (qc-Si) ingot growth enables 40% cheaper c-Si wafers.
• In CIGS, standardization is key. CIGS thin-film PV relies on custom equipment today. However, off-the-shelf tools and improved throughput will drive higher efficiencies, performance and yield – lowering capex and helping manufacturers attain scale and competitive production costs.
• New cell designs lead to equipment upgrades. Emerging cell designs, such as selective emitter (SE) and heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer (HIT) present potential for high efficiencies. However, they require new tools, and as a result, 60% to 70% of new equipment sales are for the cell production equipment.
This year, global capacity utilization is at 55% for crystalline silicon (x-Si) module production, 70% for cadmium telluride (CdTe) and 80% for copper indium gallium (di) selenide (CIGS), states Lux Research. Consequently, cell and module manufacturers are turning to core product differentiation to revamp margins and counter low-cost Chinese competition.
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