Analysis of PV manufacturing capacity expansion plans in 2014

By Mark Osborne, Senior News Editor, Photovoltaics International

Global PV end-market demand for PV modules is expected to reach around 50GW in 2014, which has prompted the need for manufacturers to expand capacity to meet demand. With effective module capacity standing at around 45GW at the end of 2013, Photovoltaics International (PVI) has analysed solar cell, c-Si and thin-film capacity expansion announcements that were extensively reported by sister website, PV Tech, from the beginning of 2014 through to the end of November to establish key trends.

PV trade barriers: Strategies for Chinese and Taiwanese producers

By Matthias Grossmann, Business Development Manager, Viridis.iQ GmbH

The latest rounds of formal complaints against alleged breaches of trade agreements, the initiation of circumvention investigations, and preliminary announcements and rulings in various countries and trading zones all demonstrate that the multidimensional trade conflict in global PV markets is far from being resolved and is still simmering. The trade dispute is largely focused on the import of downstream products (c-Si wafer, cell and module) in current and prospective high-volume markets, such as the EU, the USA and potentially India. These nations or trading zones have implemented, or have proposed to implement, anti-dumping and countervailing duties, predominantly targeted against Chinese downstream producers. New rounds of investigations might lead to existing tariffs being extended to Taiwanese manufacturers that directly or indirectly import into the USA, while the EU might scrap a previous quota and minimum price system and revert to tariffs. This paper gives a brief historical review of the global PV trade dispute, and analyses the formal and legal grounding of anticircumvention actions, which in general increase the complexities of business planning. Because more than 70% of the global downstream manufacturing capacity is located in China and Taiwan, the manufacturers in these regions have no choice but to embrace an internationalization strategy that consists of production offshoring. The paper concludes with the introduction of potential strategies and recommendations which take account of increased complexities and uncertainties in business planning that arise from shifting trade barriers.

Overview of challenges in ultrathin substrate handling

By Tim Giesen, Project Manager, Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA; Raphael Adamietz, Project Manager, Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA; Guido Kreck, Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA; Tobias Iseringhausen, Project Manager, Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA; Roland Wertz, Manager, Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA

The positive expectations for the global PV market are driven by state-of-the-art PV products which have become economically attractive because of technical optimization. Nonetheless, scientists and engineers face the next generation of wafer-based PV technologies in terms of processing recipes and automation techniques. In this paper, motivations, challenges and advances relating to the handling of ultrathin PV substrates are identified for future application. A brief look out of the PV box at neighbouring disciplines in high-tech sectors will also be taken. The differences and advances in the automated handling of ultrathin substrates will be highlighted as well as the difficulties for transportation. The advanced production challenges of a gripperbased substrate movement will be accompanied by increased cleanliness requirements, as test results from the Fraunhofer IPA automation lab show.

The next PV capacity expansion phase is under way

By Mark Osborne, Senior News Editor, Photovoltaics International

Two years of overcapacity in the global PV supply chain have led to investment in new manufacturing capacity grinding to a halt. However, booming global end-market demand has brought the supply–demand imbalance under control and as a result the world’s leading equipment suppliers have begun looking at serious capacity expenditure. On the basis of recent announcements and annual report publications by some of the leading manufacturers, this article examines where, when and by whom capacity expansions are now planned.

Local PV manufacturing

By Matthias Grossmann, Business Development Manager, Viridis.iQ GmbH.

The investment case for the establishment of PV manufacturing hubs in emerging regions became bleak as c-Si PV manufacturing capacities in China ballooned from 2004 to 2011/12. The resulting supply overhang, with dramatic price decreases throughout the PV value chain, led to severe margin compressions and ultimately to closures, insolvencies and postponement of expansion plans by incumbents across the board. A common misperception by private and public decision makers alike – reflected in the recent escalation in global trade disputes – is that products made outside China are, per se, not competitive. In contrast to this mind-set, and on the basis of experience in numerous development projects, the author argues that new entrants have multiple instruments available that can make local PV manufacturing plants commercially viable in many regions of the world.

Changing global market and technology trends - new challenges for PV manufacturing strategies and facility concepts

By Klaus Eberhardt, Technology Manager for Photovoltaics, M+W Group; Peter Csatáry, Head of the Global Technology Services Group, M+W Group

The PV manufacturing and technology hubs established over the past decade will change at an accelerated pace through the globalization of solar power installations. This development will be most pronounced in regions with high solar radiation, where grid parity can be achieved without subsidies. It can therefore be expected that parts of manufacturing within the PV added-value chain will also be established in new markets, such as South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This trend will also stimulate these economies by the generation of new employment opportunities in the advanced technology sector. During the development of a new business plan, the key factors to resolve include the optimum manufacturing size and the extent to which upstream integration, from module manufacturing to poly Si, will be competitive. This paper addresses technology trends and strategic considerations for optimally selecting a PV manufacturer's strategy for each region, the determinants for centralized versus decentralized manufacturing, and the impact of these on fab and facilities concepts. Furthermore, the dependence of manufacturing capacity on fab and facility cost, as well as on the energy demand for individual manufacturing steps along the value chain, is discussed and compared.

In the balance: The social costs and benefits of PV

By Carol Olson, Project Manager, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN)

For more than a decade, the growth in PV markets surpassed expectations. Then, in 2012, the European market declined for the first time compared with the previous year. As policymakers’ support for PV hesitates over the costs to society of this technology, it is timely to take an overview of the social costs and benefits, also referred to as the ‘external costs’, of PV electricity. In this article, these costs are put into perspective visà- vis those associated with conventional electricity-generating technologies. The external costs of electricity can be broken down into: 1) the environmental and health costs; 2) the costs of subsidies and energy security; and 3) the costs for grid expansion and reliability. Included in these costs are the increased insurance, health, social and environmental costs associated with damages to health, infrastructure and environment, as well as tax payments that subsidize producers of electricity or fuels, their markets and the electricity infrastructure. A life cycle assessment (LCA) of the environmental impact is used in the quantification of the associated environmental and health costs. Because the environmental footprint of PV electricity is highly dependent on the electricity mix used in PV module fabrication, the environmental indicators are calculated for PV electricity manufactured using different electricity mixes, and compared with those for the European electricity mix (UCTE), and electricity generated by burning 100% coal or 100% natural gas. In 2012$, coal electricity requires 19–29¢/kWh above the market price, compared with 1–1.6¢/kWh for PV manufactured with 100% coal electricity. The sum of the subsidies, avoided fossil-fuel imports and energy security, and the economic stimulation associated with PV electricity deployment, amounts to net external benefits. Integrating high penetrations of renewables, with the same reliability as we have today, appears to be fully feasible and within the cost horizons of the current activities of system operators.

Optimizing site selection decisions in a changing solar marketplace

By Dick Sheehy, Advanced Planning and Site Selection Services Group, CH2M HILL; Nate Monosoff, CH2M HILL

Whether in the USA as a part of a manufacturing resurgence or elsewhere in the world, solar producers need to be smarter than ever about where they choose to locate new operation centres. Solar manufacturing site selection demands analytical rigour. The intent of this article is to share strategies and tools that can help owners make the best informed choices about where to locate new manufacturing operations.

When capacity buys are not an option: Technical trends in c-Si cell manufacturing and their implications

By David Jimenez, President, Wright Williams & Kelly, Inc.; Alan Levine, Wright Williams & Kelly, Inc.

Economics will always play a crucial role in the way PV technology advances. However, the current generation of products is facing substantial business challenges in the attempt to scale the product technologies. This paper is the fifth in a series covering business analysis for PV processes. The methods applied in these papers fall into two categories: cost of ownership (COO) modelling and cost and resource modelling. Both methods examine the business considerations associated with the adoption of new processes, tools or materials. This is more critical than ever. Nearterm issues – in some cases the survival of the business – heavily influence today's decision processes. This paper tries to identify the areas that it is thought will produce the largest near-term paybacks. The areas identified are n-type wafers, Al2O3 passivation and copper metallization.

Turning lemons into lemonade: Opportunities in the turbulent PV equipment market

By Fatima Toor, Analyst, Lux Research Inc.

Production equipment is the backbone of the PV industry, but the equipment sector is suffering because of overcapacity. The 2012 global capacity utilization is at 55% for crystalline silicon (x-Si) module production, 70% for cadmium telluride (CdTe) and 80% for copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS). Under these market conditions, there are almost no expected capacity expansions in the near term. The overcapacity has driven the average selling price (ASP) for modules significantly lower, resulting in hyper-competition in the PV industry, where almost all PV companies recognize the importance of product differentiation while still reducing costs. These market conditions present an opportunity for equipment manufacturers to differentiate their offerings through enabling lower production costs and higher efficiency of cells and modules.

A cheaper, faster and greener solar panel manufacturing process

By George-Felix Leu, Reactor Development Engineer, Oerlikon Solar; Chris Egli, PECVD Product Manager, Oerlikon Solar; Edgar Hepp, Manager of Product Lifecycle Management Team, Oerlikon Solar; Bertrand Le Faou, Commercial Manager of the F2 Division, The Linde Group; Jean-Charles Cigal, OEM Programm Manager, The Linde Group; Greg Shuttleworth, Product Manager Equipment, The Linde Group

The cleaning performance of three different fluorine-containing precursors – sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) and molecular fluorine (F2) – is compared from theoretical, experimental and commercial points of view. Experiments were performed using an Oerlikon Solar KAI Gen 5 (1300mm x 1100mm) R&D platform. For the experiments with F2, an ‘on-site/on-demand’ generator from The Linde Group was installed at the Oerlikon Solar facility in Trübbach, Switzerland. The SF6-based cleaning process was found to be up to 75% less efficient than the corresponding NF3 or F2 process. A comparison between NF3 and F2 indicates that a significantly larger process window is available for reactor cleaning when F2 is used in place of NF3. This leads to both time and gas mass savings, improving productivity and bringing down the cost of ownership of the reactor cleaning process. As a direct consequence, Oerlikon Solar has decided to transfer the process to their production KAI MT plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition (PECVD) platforms.

International technology roadmap for PV: Results 2011

By Stephan Raithel, Director of PV Europe, SEMI PV Group

What does an industry need for sustainable, long-term success? A market, customers and suppliers, and – most certainly – excellent products that can be sold. When looking at various different mature industries there is one thing they all have in common – they have industry-initiated roadmaps! With SEMI’s experience in the semiconductor industry over the last 40 years, the example of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) has proved that pre-competitive industry collaboration among the supply chain and among competitors leads to a reduction in costs, a better time to market and an increased efficiency. Moreover, it helps all players to benefit from jointly solved manufacturing challenges.

How automation can benefit the PV industry

By Roland Wertz, Group Manager, Fraunhofer IPA; Fabian Böttinger, Project Manager for Factory Planning and Optimization in Photovoltaics and Related Industries, Fraunhofer IPA; Christian Fischmann, Project Manager, Fraunhofer IPA; Tim Giesen, Project Manager for Photovoltaic-Related Automation, Fraunhofer IPA; Marcus Michen, Project Leader for Factory Optimization and Data Analysis, Fraunhofer IPA

Although the different roadmaps for PV vary somewhat from each other, the bottom line always remains the same: exponential growth is predicted over the next 5 –10 years. The latest cell technologies meet the demand for grid parity even in central Europe and PV will therefore continue to be the most popular source of renewable energy. In consequence, the whole PV industry has developed from a niche product towards mass production. Every player along the entire value chain is now faced with the need to stay profitable while meeting the ever-increasing demands of the market. Implementing suitable automation can improve competitiveness and thus pave the way to becoming or remaining successful in this turbulent market.

Environmental footprinting of photovoltaic module production

By Mariska de Wild-Scholten, Consultant, SmartGreenScans

Several PV module producers have performed a carbon footprint analysis and published a sustainability report as part of their corporate social responsibility policy. Comparison of carbon footprint results is difficult because several international standards and life cycle assessment (LCA) databases are used. No product footprint category rules (PFCR) or product category rules (PCRs) for photovoltaics exist, so LCAs are performed with varying underlying assumptions. Furthermore, a fair comparison can only be made when all environmental footprints of a product are taken into account.

US environmental permitting for PV manufacturing facilities - requirements and strategies for succes

By John Browning P.E., CH2M HILL

As a relative newcomer to the industrial world compared to more mature manufacturing sectors, the PV industry has not yet been subject to consistent environmental regulatory standards internationally. Like all industries that have preceded it, PV manufacturing is seeing its regulatory future evolve as PV producers migrate to different regions of the world. With this global expansion come significantly different levels of regulatory stringency, reflective of local conditions and cultures.