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02 Sep 2011 12:09:24

Present and future: cost reduction and new opportunities now central to thin film

PV Insider have announced that cost reduction and new opportunities are the two central themes of the 4th Thin Film Solar Summit USA (1-2 December, San Francisco).

The US market for thin film has shown great promise, thanks to a competitive LCOE, cost reduction and efficiency increase potential and the ability to cater for a rising demand for renewables. After years of consolidation, commercialization and the growing pains of an emerging technology, industry research paints a positive picture of sustained and robust growth of PV installations in the US: grid-connected PV installations in the first quarter of 2011 increased by 66% compared to the same quarter in 2010, reaching 252MW. The total for grid-connected PV has now reached 2.3GW, and thin film now accounts for almost 20% of total signed PPAs in states with a high DNI, and is ready to go to head-to-head with its rivals in CPV and crystalline silicon (c-Si).

However, the warning signs cannot be ignored. The recent exit of Solyndra was a wake-up call to the industry that competitiveness remains the name of the game, and costs must continue to be driven down to fight off the price pressure of crystalline-silicon rivals. The emphasis has shifted away from strictly R&D efforts to increase efficiencies and on to the equipment and material suppliers, the manufacturing processes, and balance of system costs and practices.

Similarly, markets that have been a traditional source of strength to thin film, such as Germany and Italy, are now racked with uncertainty, and it is by no means clear that they can continue to be the center of the industry, and it is now accepted that increasing competitiveness and securing finance will be meaningless if the market space for thin film is not expanded. At the same time, new applications and geographies exist for thin film where no other technology is as effective.

For these reasons, PV Insider have announced the 4th Thin Film Solar Summit USA (1-2 December, San Francisco) will address the overarching issues of cost reduction (day one) and new opportunities (day two). The conference has two distinctive features that are new for 2011 – a series of ‘Cost Reduction Masterclasses’ to demonstrate where every possible cent per watt can be saved. There will also be an expansive ‘International Markets Forum’ – a three part session consisting of a panel, roundtable discussion and conclusion to show the hottest new markets across the globe.

Companies such as First Solar, Sharp Solar, Würth Solar, the US Department of Energy (DOE), MiaSolé, Astronergy, Belectric and Soltecture will show delegates how to secure the future of thin film and carve out an expansive future. Organizer Matt Carr stated that “recent events have made it clear how important cost reduction still is to the industry, and we are under no illusions that there are some tough months ahead. However, it is equally important that we think long term, and recognize the possibilities that are open to thin film where it has the edge over its rivals."

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