Solar Panels to be Produced Below 70 Cents a Watt
Oerlikon Reduces Amorphous Silicon Solar Panels Production Cost to Under 70 Cents per Watt presenting competition to others in industry
In the race to make solar energy cost-effective, producing solar panels for less than a dollar per watt is old hat these days. Industry leader First Solar crossed that threshold in 2009, and is producing its cadmium telluride thin-film solar panels today at a per watt cost of 76 cents.
Now First Solar is facing competition from equipment manufacturer Oerlikon, which announced last week that it can enable solar manufacturers to produce its amorphous silicon solar panels at a cost under 70 cents per watt. While the company has achieved the cost structure in a controlled environment, some assumptions are at play. Customer ability to integrate Oerlikon’s new line of solar panels and achieve the cost targets in 2011 is theoretically possible but yet to be achieved in practice.
First Solar is already achieving its target solar panel manufacturing cost of 76 cents per watt, and at the present time can claim a solid place as the best manufacturer of solar panels, in regards to cost and efficiency. The Oerlikon announcement, however, may herald a resurgence of the amorphous silicon solar panels technology, which has been held back by the loss of several companies who have either gone out of business, or like Applied Materials earlier this year, abandoned the amorphous silicon business.
Oerlikon has differentiated itself with continual improvements to its fab line over the past several years, including higher efficiency tandem-junction cells, thinner layers of silicon, more highly reflective backsheets, and other techniques that have reduced material needs. The bottom line is a 25% reduction in capital expenditures for its customers.
Oerlikon’s latest tandem-junction micromorph cell is 11.9 percent efficient in the laboratory environment and results have been verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The progress made by Oerlikon draws attention to the continued lowering of costs in the production of solar panels, which promises good news for consumers and businesses who want to go green with their energy production.