A new market research report from IC Insights, its first foray into the solar sphere, but well known in the semiconductor space, highlights that conversion efficiency breakthroughs for thin film solar technology have proved to be difficult, which will limit the growth of the various technologies through 2013. According to the market research firm, thin film share of the total solar module market will increase from 14% in 2008 to a forecast 27% in 2013, but claims to be a lower projection than some of its market research competitors.
Author of the report, Jeremy Young, believes that thin film manufacturers have struggled to push panel efficiencies above about 11%, despite research-lab devices with efficiencies ranging from 16% to 20%. This limits thin film use to commercial rooftop and ground-based utility scale energy plants, missing out on residential markets as conventional c-Si technologies have higher efficiency levels ranging from 14% to 21% in volume production.
A big factor coming to the aid of c-Si wafer-based cell makers is a big increase in available polysilicon supplies. Freed of the capacity constraints for wafers and with silicon costs dropping, wafer-based solar cell makers will concentrate on improvements in device design and manufacturing techniques that allow them to drive device efficiency up and cost-per-watt down. Several suppliers have said that they will be bringing higher-efficiency cells to market, including a number of new back-contact cell designs.
IC Insights is also pessimistic about the solar market overall in 2009, forecasting an end to the 99% growth rates seen in 2008. A 22% growth rate decline is expected this year, followed by a strong growth in 2010 and beyond.