Oerlikon Solar breaks thin film silicon records for production cost, lab cell efficiency

Swiss solar manufacturer Oerlikon now claims the lowest production cost for thin film silicon modules and the highest cell efficiency in the lab environment.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Swiss solar module equipment manufacturer Oerlikon claimed on Tuesday that it has broken the record for production cost for thin film silicon modules and individual cell efficiency in the lab environment.

The first record comes with the launch of its new "ThinFab" thin film silicon module production line, allowing the company production costs of €0.50 (or approx. $0.64) per-watt peak at 10 percent efficiency.

The second comes with the development of its Micromorph lab cell, which is now capable of 11.9 percent stabilized efficiency. It was developed in partnership with Corning and rated by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL.

Those records might not mean much to the average person, but the big takeaway is thus: in the solar arms race, the pursuit of ever-higher efficiencies and ever-lower production costs will, over time, help solar displace fossil fuels in the nation's energy mix.

To date, thin film represents one-fifth the solar market (with the lion's share made by Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar); the rest is polycrystalline silicon.

In July, Oerlikon Solar's Chris O'Brien made the case for thin film to this very publication. To summarize: thin film's unique physical attributes will help it become the market leader within five years.

In the interview, O'Brien noted that Oerlikon is dead-set on its technology roadmap, and this announcement reveals the first step since then. The goal: to close the gap with First Solar by staying ahead in the efficiency game.

The strategy: evolution, not revolution.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards