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Innovation for optical, electrical and economic improvement of thin-film PV technology

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By Joop van Deelen & Marco Barink, TNO

Innovation in the field of thin-film cells, in addition to economy of scale and the manufacturing learning curve, is an important element in keeping the price of this technology competitive. Most papers on these cells focus on their technology; however, the economic potential of the technology is also important. Of even greater significance, a realistic estimation of the potential, along with the associated costs, of advanced technology, is part of the equation for profitability. Two examples of technology – metallic grids and texturing – are given in this paper; the designs are discussed, and a brief economic analysis is presented for various scenarios of the technologies. Although the profitability of these technologies can be considerable, it is shown that one should be wary of basing decisions purely on potential and on ideal scenarios, and how the cost of a technology can turn a great prospect into a trade-off.

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The thirty-fifth issue of Photovoltaics International brings you insights into how investment in high-efficiency cell technology production appears to be showing no signs of slowing down and more about scientists from the R&D team at Canadian Solar look at so-called ‘black’ silicon, one of the new cell technology concepts beginning to gain currency. Additionally, how researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE take up the theme with a paper exploring the question of quality control in the production of high-efficiency silicon solar cells and not forgetting the growing importance of thin-film technologies in the overall PV mix.

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