As companies look to compete against market and CdTe thin film module leader First Solar, the promise of higher conversion efficiencies and equally low production costs is luring a growing number of wannabe companies to copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) technology and in doing so to turnkey provider, centrotherm photovoltaics. Having announced the successful start of production of CIGS (1.5 m2) modules for a Taiwanese customer, module efficiency levels are expected to reach 10% by the end of 2010 and have the capability of production costs of below €1 per watt.
centrotherm photovoltaics order backlog that includes thin film, solar cell and silicon contracts now stands at €900 million. New orders worth more than €400 million were signed in the fourth quarter of 2009 alone.
The company noted that it has contracts to supply eight turnkey lines and six turnkey module lines, which are due for delivery over the next two years, worth more than €160 million in future revenue. A contract worth another €160 million has also been signed for silicon project.
On the individual equipment front, centrotherm photovoltaics noted that new orders amounted to approximately €70 million, with a total production capacity of 2.8GW.
In its other division, consulting and engineering mandates were signed in the silicon division that are worth more than €400 million in future revenue, with €117 million booked as new orders in the fourth quarter.
“We are convinced of the future potential of CIGS technology, and we believe that it will be a medium-term winner, also compared with the business in the crystalline cell area, which is currently significantly stronger,” noted Dr. Peter Fath, CTO of centrotherm photovoltaics. “Our strength, which consists of combining technology and process know-how, is also evident in our turnkey concept for CIGS modules. It is distinguished by technically simple industrial process management, with which we enable our customers to achieve cost-efficient production along with competitive efficiencies.”
The operational CIGS production line in Taiwan has a capacity of around 30MW, incorporating 60 machines extending over a total distance of 400 meters. centrotherm said it had a team of around 20 process engineers working at the plant to ensure that the production ramp runs successfully.
However, the company remains cautious about future demand for CIGS production lines. Fath noted that, “Falling costs for crystalline cells are raising the benchmark higher. Thin film technology still has a lot of catching up to do by comparison.”