Top 10 PV-Tech product reviews of 2012

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New product reviews again proved to be a perennial favourite amongst PV Tech’s readership in 2012. Just short of 90 separate product reviews were posted, while other news-focused reviews during major events throughout the year also proved to be a strong draw.

However, the number of new product announcements, especially during big trade shows such as SNEC, Intersolar Europe, EU PVSEC and SPI seemed to be lower. This perhaps reflects the current market dynamics, especially with regard to the lack of capital equipment spending and lack of technology upgrades.

Solar wafer products proved to be very popular with four products from this sector of the PV industry in the Top 10 most viewed product reviews this year. Two very different PV modules also featured in the list as well as three broad-based thin-film related products.

A sign of the times, it was notable that many of the companies listed have had financial troubles, undergone restructuring or been acquired.

Also notable, although rather ironic, is that while Twin Creeks Technologies technology was recently acquired by GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) and Twin Creeks closed down by its owners, GTAT has since announced that it would pull out of the DSS furnace business altogether. This was despite being the dominant supplier of ingot growth systems and the hotly anticipated launch of its ‘MonoCast’ technology proving a huge hit with PV-Tech’s readers. We even caught up with the company at SNEC earlier in the year and made a video with them on the technology but all to no avail!

But at least GTAT now has a different but cutting-edge technology for ultra-thin wafer production from the Twin Creeks technology acquisition. As a little known company at the time of the product launch, page view numbers prove there is significant interest in this technology and kudos to GTAT in spotting and acquiring the technology.

The top 10

The 10th most viewed product review in 2012 was PV inverter specialist Power-One’s second generation micro-inverters, AURORA MICRO-0.3-I and AURORA MICRO-0.25-I. Micro-inverters are continuing to gain market share and Power-One’s claimed best in class efficiency ratings of up to 96.5% didn’t go unnoticed.

Another technology that is gaining interest, and the first product from the wafer segment in the list at number 9, comes from equipment supplier RENA. Its new diamond wire cutting system, RS 690-DW, is claimed to have the highest wafer quality at the lowest Cost of Ownership and is the first tool in this segment it has developed.

The 8th most viewed product was a tandem junction thin-film based BIPV module from Schueco. The ProSol TF module claimed a 30% increase in electrical output over previous iterations. Many companies in the BIPV market, especially thin film firms, have been hit hard this year, with many exiting the market altogether. Yet longer term, market research firms continue to believe in the massive market potential, which will hopefully blossom sooner rather than later. At least being in the top 10 proves that interest in BIPV remains high.

Hot on the heels of Schueco was the second thin-film product in the list. At number 7 was DuPont Microcircuit Materials (MCM) Solamet PV416 photovoltaic metallisation paste designed to raise the efficiency output of thin-film cells. Already used by CIGS thin-film manufacturer Midsummer AB, the cell efficiency boost is a key requirement for all thin-film module producers.

In 6th position was the second PV module in the top 10 list. Although coming from a completely different perspective and a different year, Suntech’s ‘BlackPearl’ module was the most viewed product review in 2011 and, as with previous years, a top product develops renewed interest and can often prove highly popular for an extended period.

Twin Creeks Technologies’ Hyperion 3 wafer cleaving technology was the 5th most viewed product this year. This was the surprise entry in this year’s list, especially as the company was little known and ultra-thin wafers are still a long way down the technology roadmap.

At number 4 was GCL-Poly, which like Twin Creeks had never been ranked before. The polysilicon and wafer producer had launched its GCL Multi-Wafer S1+ wafer, which was claimed to have achieved average conversion efficiencies of 17.6%. Improved polysilicon quality and wafer processing techniques were behind the 0.5-0.7% efficiency gains.

Reviewed at the beginning of the year and before the company was sold to Tokyo Electron for €250 million, the product at number 3 was from Oerlikon Solar. The company had launched its second-generation ThinFab turnkey system that was offering significant cost reductions over previous lines.

At number 2 was centrotherm photovoltaics, which was highlighting its upgrade package for its centaurus technology that combines a selective emitter with a dielectric passivated backside for c-Si solar cells. However, centrotherm photovoltaics had a difficult year and are operating under self administration.

The final irony of this year’s top 10 product reviews is that the most viewed product comes from GTAT. Its DSS 450 MonoCast crystal growth system beat centrotherm’s centaurus technology by the slightest of page views to take the honours for 2012.

Listed below are the product headlines and links to the Top 10 products in ranking order:

1. GT Advanced Technologies DSS 450 MonoCast technology offers 19% plus cell efficiencies

2. centrotherm photovoltaics offers upgrade package for 19.5% cell conversion efficiencies

3. Second-generation ThinFab turnkey system from Oerlikon Solar sets lowest module costs

4. GCL-Poly offers high efficiency multicrystalline wafer

5. Twin Creeks Technologies offers commercial system for ultra-thin wafer production

6. Suntech’s 250W ‘BlackPearl’ module offers 10% more power than conventional modules

7. Silver paste from DuPont offers lower processing temperatures for thin film solar cells

8. Schueco offers ProSol TF+ tandem junction BIPV thin-film module

9. RENA’s diamond wire block saw improves wafer quality and throughput

10. Power-One’s 2nd-Gen micro-inverters have 96.5% efficiency rating

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