Top 10 PV-Tech product reviews of 2010

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There was a significant increase in the number of new products announced throughout the PV supply chain in 2010, compared to previous years. A key trend has been products focused on the utility-scale market, such as central inverters and technologies designed to cut the balance of system (BOS) costs for installations. In our review of the Top 10 most viewed products on the PV-Tech website, the diversity in the list is refreshing and covers a wide-range of subjects from solar cell metallization pastes to modules and inverters.

Although technically not in the Top 10 most viewed products of 2010, a special mention is deemed necessary for a product that was first featured in September 2008, yet has since generated a life of its own. Siemens' Sinvert series central inverter has proved a consistent hit with readers and even after double and triple checks this product proved to be the 11th most-viewed product of 2010.

That trend continued with the tenth most-popular product, which was reviewed in January 2010, coming from another inverter manufacturer, GE. Like others, GE has adapted its expertise from the wind industry to the PV to meet the rapidly expanding utility-scale PV market.

Readers found the Bernoulli ‘Gripper’ from Festo rather gripping stuff as well as it was the ninth most-popular product of last year. The technology helps transport wafer/cells through the production plant, reducing breakage but also improving throughput.

At number eight is a product we first saw at Intersolar Munich last year and had garnered a lot of interest due to a range of novel innovations for a PV module. SunSil of Denmark launched its fully integrated module system at the show although we haven’t heard much from the company since then.

The last of the oldie-but-goodie products that still captivates interest is at number seven. Having reviewed the product in February 2009, Mitsubishi Electric’s high-efficiency multicrystalline cells, used exclusively in the company's own modules, have continued to be a popular choice.

Thankfully, a much newer product and one that received a lot of interest at the time of the review is at number six. This is the first time a racking system for utility-scale projects has proved so popular, and all credit to Bosch Rexroth for developing a unique but simple slide-in module support system that it claimed cuts installation times by 50%. Although initially designed specifically for the Bosch thin-film modules, the interest was such that we wouldn’t be surprised if the company offers the system for alternative thin-film modules in the future.

At number five is Schmid’s selective emitter ‘inSECT’ technology offering. The solar cell technology is already entering volume production and selective emitter technology in general has begun to enter the mainstream. However, it is still a surprise to see that this technology was actually reviewed in September 2009; though much has been written on selective emitter technology last year, those searching for information in this cell process certainly took time to get familiar with Schmid’s offering.

We are back with utility-scale products at number four with SunPower’s next-generation T20 Tracker system, which is claimed to be the most powerful solar tracker on the market, incorporating the company's high-efficiency 128-cell, 400W solar panels. SunPower was rarely out of the news in 2010, not least for its growing project development work and ballooning project pipeline that competes well with the likes of First Solar. The T20 Tracker system seems to be at the heart of SunPower’s success.

The least surprising product found in the top 10 and a serious contender for the top slot at third place comes from Sanyo. The Japanese PV manufacturer launched its new N Series ‘HIT’ modules that employ cells with 21.1% efficiency, making it one of the most high-performance modules on the market.

Launched and reviewed in September, it had significant attention and could have easily been the most popular product of the year if it had been released earlier. However, our suspicion is that it could remain a popular choice throughout the year as the product actually hits the market in volume numbers.

In second place and again a reflection of the current advanced thin-film cell technologies being adopted to boost efficiencies is DuPont’s Solamet PV412 PV metallization paste, which is suited to flexible thin-film substrates. Although flexible thin-film products remain a relative niche when compared with the mainstream module technologies in the marketplace, there is a growing number of companies entering or planning to enter the market with a wide range of such products.

If anyone doubts that then they have to consider why the most popular reviewed product last year was Kaneka’s ‘Hybrid’ PV module that officially entered the US market in 2010. The Kaneka developed module uses tandem-junction cells, featuring a microcrystalline thin-film silicon layer and a thin-film amorphous-silicon layer. Kaneka claimed it achieved a maximum 42% higher energy conversion efficiency than Kaneka’s conventional thin-film amorphous-silicon PV module.

Reviewed in January, the product caught a lot of interest at that time and consistently attracted attention all year and was easily the recipient of the most traffic among all the products reviewed last year.

Below are the Top 10 reviewed products of 2010 and the respective links to the reviews.

1. Kaneka launches ‘Hybrid’ microcrystalline thin-film module in U.S.
2. DuPont’s Solamet PV412 PV metallization paste handles flexible thin films
3. Sanyo’s ‘HIT’ N Series module uses 21.1% efficiency cells
4. SunPower ‘T20 Tracker Evolution’ delivers maximum energy with 128-cell, 400-watt
5. Schmid’s inSECT technology simplifies selective emitter processing and reduces costs
6. Bosch Rexroth slide-in module support system cuts install times by 50%
7. Mitsubishi Electric boosts multicrystalline cell efficiency to 18.9%
8. SunSil’s ‘Integra’ offers embedded electronics, micro-inverter and software
9. Bernoulli Gripper from Festo enables ‘contactless handling’
10. GE’s 600 kW solar inverter takes lead from wind turbine capabilities 


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