As solar manufacturers ramped up volume production over the past few years, in an attempt to compete on the lowest cost per watt, something was lost, an emphasis on research and development that was raising the efficiency of PV modules. The new PV Equipment Quarterly report from NPD Solarbuzz suggests that that emphasis is changing.
Now that some of the PV manufacturers were weeded out companies are again investing in research and development and the report anticipated that within 12 months the industry-standard 60-cell, multi-crystalline solar panel is expected to reach 275 watts. Currently the industry average is about 265 watts.
The main reasons for the higher efficiencies on the roadmaps are uncertainty over tariffs, causing companies to delay completing new factories and the addition passivated emitter and rear cell (PERC) processing, which adds a layer to cell that increases PV cell’s ability to convert sunlight into electricity.
“The solar PV industry previously operated without a clear technology roadmap, which is no longer an option in the rapidly growing solar PV industry,” said Finlay Colville, vice president of NPD Solarbuzz. “Legacy over-capacity within the industry, combined with uncertainty arising from trade disputes, is now forcing cell manufacturers to improve manufacturing processes to attain record efficiencies.”
“New solar cell factories were expected to come online during the second half of 2014, especially in Taiwan,” Colville said. “The threat of import duties on Chinese and Taiwanese manufactured components shipping to Europe or the United States, however, has caused additional delays and uncertainty,” he asserted.
So instead of completing new solar panel manufacturing plants, companies in China and Taiwan are upgrading their existing facilities with the newer technologies. According to NPD Solarbuzz the PERC upgrade alone can add 10 watts to a 60-cell multi-crystalline solar panel and 15 watts to mono-crystalline solar panels.
Companies are already able to use higher-quality silicon to produce more efficient PV panels. “To move existing silicon-based cell capacity further forward now requires new technologies to be implemented, which has the potential to drive solar manufacturing into the first widespread technology buy cycle seen within the industry,” Colville noted.
Why does this matter? The higher efficiency panels would mean solar panels could produce more power in a smaller area, whether a rooftop or solar power farm. NPD Solarbuzz said the new technologies will also help drive down the price of solar installations as well while improving profit margins.Tweet