PVI Issue

Photovoltaics International Volume 28

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In the past few issues of Photovoltaics International we have tracked in detail plans being implemented by the leading module manufacturers to expand production capacity. That process began tentatively last year as end-market demand began to catch up with the chronic overcapacity that had built up in the preceding years, prompting industry-wide upheaval. Our latest capacity expansion report (p.11), a unique resource in the industry, reveals that while that activity was maintained throughout much of 2014, spiking in a strong final quarter of 2014, announcements of new capacity slowed slightly in the opening quarter of this year. Nevertheless, all the signs point to the pace picking up again later this year as manufacturers look to take advantage of the surge in activity expected in the US at the back end of this year and into 2016, in anticipation of the cutting back of the solar investment tax credit at the end of that year.

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In this issue...

PVI Paper
Fab & Facilities, Photovoltaics International Papers
In this first quarterly report of 2015 a full first-quarter analysis will be presented, as well as the planned capacity announcements for March and April. Notably this will include Tier 1 manufacturers’ plans and a special lookat Malaysia and its potential for another wave of companies planning manufacturing operations in the country.Finally, further analysis of the potential renaissance in thin-film production will be provided.
PVI Paper
Market Watch, Photovoltaics International Papers
As the upstream PV industry enters a new phase of growth, manufacturers are seeking new strategies and technologies to enable them to continue to cut costs and remain competitive. The sixth edition of the annual International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaic describes the key trends likely to shape the PV sector in the coming year. This paper analyses some of the most promising areas for development.
PVI Paper
Photovoltaics International Papers, PV Modules
Poor insulation resistance in modules is one of the primary contributors to module failure. Regimes currently in place to test the insulation resistance of crystalline silicon modules have proved problematic, as the conditions found in a laboratory are not on a par with environmental conditions at installation sites. This paper explores the shortcomings of current testing standards and recommends further tests that should be introduced to prevent module failures in the field.
PVI Paper
Photovoltaics International Papers, PV Modules
High-efficiency (HE) PV technologies, such as heterojunction, back-contact or n-type, can be affected by significant measurement errors compared with conventional technologies; the power measurement of HE crystalline silicon PV modules and cells has therefore been a challenge for the PV industry for at least two decades. To deal with the internal capacitance and the spectral mismatch errors of HE cells and modules, various measurement techniques are currently used: steady-state, multi-flash, dynamic I–V, DragonBack™ and dark I–V and reconstruction methods, to name a few. This paper discusses the challenges and provides guidance for best practice for acquiring accurate measurements.
PVI Paper
Photovoltaics International Papers, PV Modules
Potential-induced degradation (PID) of the shunting type (PID-s) is one of the most severe forms of PID, which is caused by the negative potential of p-type solar cells with respect to grounded frames/mounting. Although this negative potential can be completely avoided at the system level, that is not the case for a large number of modern PV systems. PV modules that are able to sustain PID-s stress for at least the duration of their service life are therefore essential. To assess whether modules fulfil this requirement, laboratory tests are currently recommended in which the modules are exposed to a certain constant level of PID-s stress for a given amount of time. These types of test with constant stress levels, however, are only feasible in the case of degradation mechanisms that are not reversible in the field, for which non-coherent stress episodes simply sum up to the total stress. Unlike other mechanisms, PID-s is reversible under field conditions; as a consequence, the level of PID-s of a fielded module is the result of an intricate interplay of phases of degradation and regeneration. This behaviour cannot be replicated in a laboratory test using a constant stress level; the currently recommended laboratory tests for PID-s with constant stress levels are therefore not appropriate for assessing the service life duration, and can only be used for differentiating the susceptibility to PID-s stress and for monitoring the stability of production processes. For monitoring the PID-s resistance of its products, Hanwha Q CELLS uses tests for PID-s with constant stress in accordance with the draft for IEC PID test method 62804. This assures that all the products of the Q CELLS brand come with Anti-PID Technology (APT). The expected service life duration with respect to PID-s is assessed by simulating the interplay of degradation and regeneration under non-constant outdoor conditions that are based on meteorological data.
PVI Paper
Photovoltaics International Papers, Thin Film
Most development work in the laboratory is dedicated to efficiency enhancements at the cell level; improvements in efficiency can lead to higher cost-competitiveness of PV. However, the cost of panel manufacturing is an important aspect as well. For CIGS panels the deposition of the active layer is an important part of the cost, and decreasing the layer thickness can reduce costs. Moreover, cost of ownership calculations can determine how much benefit can be expected from thinner absorber layers from a cost perspective; clearly, a thinner absorber will result in reduced absorption. To avoid losses, modelling can be used to predict the efficiency and viable light management strategies. Other efficiency-enhancing technology is related to the fact that most thin-film solar panels are monolithically interconnected. The area loss involved in this type of interconnection, and the trade-off between conductivity and transmittance of the front contact, impose limits on the maximum efficiency. The impact of improving both of these aspects is demonstrated in this paper. A viable way to improve the front contact is by supplementing the front contact with a metallic pattern. The benefit and the impact of different configurations and dimensions of the cell and metallic pattern are presented.
PVI Paper
Cell Processing, Photovoltaics International Papers
This paper gives an overview of the application of silicon epitaxy as a doping technology in bulk crystalline silicon solar cells. The large degree of flexibility in designing a doped profile in one process step, and the elegant way of locally creating doped regions, or simply achieving single-side doping by selective epitaxy, are presented. Other advantages – such as the absence of subsequent steps to drive in the doped region, to activate the dopants and to heal any damage or remove glassy layers – position the technology as a strong alternative to classical diffusion. Silicon epitaxy is possible on the flat and textured surfaces of solar material, and is compatible with cleaning sequences suited to industrial implementation. The integration of epitaxial layers in solar cells is capable of providing not only high efficiencies but also simplifications of the cell fabrication process, and, therefore, reductions in the cell cost of ownership (CoO). The proof of concept at the cell level has been demonstrated by the integration of boron-doped epitaxial emitters in n-type IBC and PERT solar cells: 22.8% efficiency for IBC (4cm2) and 21.9% for PERT (238.9cm2) devices have been obtained.
PVI Paper
Materials, Photovoltaics International Papers
Extended crystal defects, such as grain boundaries and dislocations, have long been considered the main factors limiting the performance of multicrystalline (mc-Si) silicon solar cells. However, because the detrimental effects of these crystal defects are reduced as a result of improvements in the solidification process as well as in the feedstock and crucible quality, the degradation caused by boron–oxygen complexes is expected to be of increasing importance. Light-induced degradation (LID) occurs in both p- and n-type crystalline silicon solar cells that contain both boron and oxygen. Because of the fundamental differences in the solidification processes, mc-Si silicon contains less oxygen than Czochralski silicon; nevertheless, the oxygen content in mc-Si silicon is still sufficient to cause degradation, although to a lesser extent than in the case of Czochralski silicon. Whereas B–O-related degradation of 0.5 to 1% abs. can be found in Czochralski cells, the degradation in conventional mc-Si cells is limited to around 0.1 to 0.2% abs.

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