Now that polysilicon prices are falling, thin film producers are facing competitive pressures.
Here’s a wrap up of all the thin film companies that could be affected:
*Thin film solar panels are less efficient at transforming sunlight into electricity than the traditional crystalline silicon panels that dominate the market. They are generally lower in cost, however, because they do not rely on polysilicon, the price of which had skyrocketed in recent years.
*In 2008, thin film represented about 20 per cent of the photovoltaic solar market, or about 1.16 gigawatts.
*Three technologies fall under the thin film umbrella: amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS.
*Amorphous silicon panels use about 1 per cent of the silicon needed for traditional panels. Its comparative thinness is enabling amorphous-silicon panels to be integrated into buildings, including doubling as roof shingles.
*Cadmium telluride is the semiconductor material used in panels made by thin film industry leader First Solar Inc (FSLR.O). Cadmium telluride’s success has come from its low cost, despite efficiencies that lag silicon-based competitors.
Other cadmium telluride panel makers include privately-held U.S. company Abound Solar and General Electric Co (GE.N)-backed PrimeStar Solar Inc, which has yet to begin commercial production.
*CIGS is a compound semiconductor material made of copper, indium, gallium and selenium. The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory said last year they had set a new efficiency record of 19.9 per cent for CIGS cells, nearing the record for crystalline silicon cells. However, no company has neared efficiency in the factory.
CIGS manufacturers include Ascent Solar Technologies Inc (ASTI.O), DayStar Technologies Inc (DSTI.O) and privately-held Solyndra, Global Solar, and Nanosolar, which is backed by Google (GOOG.O) founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Sources: New Energy Finance, U.S. Department of Energy
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