Lux Research: Equipment upgrades key for PV manufacturers to compete

Lux Research finds that despite c-Si capacity utilization rates of 55% in 2012, new equipment investments will be necessary

On October 25th, 2012 Lux Research Inc. (Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.) released a new report which states that solar photovoltaic (PV) equipment manufacturers need to acquire innovative production equipment in order to cut costs, increase margins, and offer differentiated products.

“Turning lemons into lemonade: Opportunities in the turbulent photovoltaic equipment market” notes that in 2012, global capacity utilization has fallen to 55% for crystalline silicon (c-Si) module production and 70-80% for leading thin film module technologies. The report says that as a result of this cell and module manufacturers must differentiate their products to regain profitability.

“Across the industry there is recognition that innovation is needed to survive a shakeout,” said Lux Research Analyst Fatima Toor, lead author of the report. “Equipment suppliers have a vital role to play in enabling that innovation.”

Possibilities for cost reduction in c-Si manufacturing

Among the findings of the report is that there are gains to be made in reducing silicon costs, including reducing silicon waste by use of direct solidification and epitaxial silicon wafer growth techniques. Lux Research also finds that quasi-monocrystalline silicon ingot growth also enables a 40% cost reduction for c-Si wafers.

For copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) technology, Lux Research emphasizes standardization, noting that while CIGS producers currently rely on customized equipment, that off-the-shelf tools and improved throughput will drive higher efficiencies.

Finally, the report finds that new cell designs will drive equipment upgrades, specifically mentioning selective emitter and heterojunction with intrinsic layer (HIT) technologies.

For more information, please see Solar Server’s interview with Fatima Toor on the report and its findings.

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