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Challenges of the gigawatt fab

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By Michael Kostwald, Senior Cosultant,Turner & Townsend GmbH; Hans Mahrenholtz, Head of Application Development, Linde Gas, Linde Ag; Anish Tolia, Market Development Manager, Linde Electronics

Thin-film solar cell manufacturing is poised to make a giant leap in scale with the birth of the gigawatt fab. Commercial thin-film plants are typically sized based on the capacity of the production line from the chosen equipment supplier. In most cases, initial investments have been for a single line, typically with an output capacity of no more than 60MWp. This period of initial development has allowed the industry to prove the robustness of the technology and capabilities of the equipment, as well as to understand the significance for the cost-per-watt of key cost drivers such as materials reduction, cell efficiency increases, and productivity. While large-scale manufacturing will positively impact costs, it presents a unique set of challenges for equipment and material suppliers, as well as the engineering and contracting companies tasked with designing, building, equipping and running a facility on this scale. In this paper, we present the insights of two specialty companies in the solar industry. Turner and Townsend, a design and project management consultancy, and Linde, glass manufacturer and gas and chemical company - share their views of the challenges of the gigawatt fab in three dedicated sections.

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The first edition of the Photovoltaics International journal, published in August 2008, was created in response to what was deemed to be a growing need for an unbiased technical publication for the solar cell and module manufacturing industry. With this in mind, the first edition of Photovoltaics International saw the commissioning of papers from a wide range of sectors, such as NREL’s overview of the CPV sector, IMEC’s thin-film efficiency gains via plasma texturing, site selection with IBM PLI, Q-Cells on silicon nitride thin films and Navigant Consulting’s market overview.

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