Continued overcapacity in the upstream supply chain that includes polysilicon, solar wafers and solar cells is resulting in continued price declines and uncertainty over 2010 market demand. As a result Q-Cells is planning to hold c-Si cell production at approximately 800MW in 2009 and grow nameplate capacity to 1.1GW in 2010, on provisional market expectations for next year. However, its CIGS thin film subsidiary is expected to increase nameplate capacity to 135MW and actually ship close to 100MW in 2010, signalling the maturity of the product and potential market penetration of the technology. Solibro was said to have shipped its first products to customers in the quarter.
Q-Cells executive Anton Milner highlighted in a conference call to discuss third quarter results that Solibro was expected to generate a cost per watt of €0.80 cents by the end of 2010 with capacity of 135MW. This was expected to decrease to €0.70 cents by the end of 2011.
Process optimization, yield enhancements and other production cost efficiency programs would be implemented to achieve the cost per watt reductions.
Importantly, Milner noted that conversion efficiency gains were also planned in 2010, taking efficiencies from 12.1% to 12.7%.
Although a time line for further expansions wasn’t provided, Milner noted that its next phase of build-out at Solibro would be much higher than current facility capacities of 90MW. Scaling the thin film technology would be an important feature of future plans and would include production in ‘low-cost countries.’
According to Photon Consulting, figures recently released in its ‘Solar Annual 2009’ report highlight that Wurth Solar was leading CIGS manufacturer in 2008 with 15MW of commercial production. The market research firm expects CIGS technology to be responsible for 23% of thin film shipments in 2009 and down to 18% share in 2010, due to the continued ramp of CdTe and a-Si technologies, which have a capacity ramp lead over CIGS.
However, Photon Consulting only projected that Solibro would achieve 23MW of production in 2011. Leaders in this technology would be Solyndra with 55MW and Showa Shell with 28MW.