Generous funding of photovoltaic research and development (R&D) will generate disruptive next-generation technologies that will drive down cost per watt and restore profit margins to low double-digits by 2014, according to a new report from Lux Research.
The company created a Disruptive PV Technology Grid, which quantitatively evaluates new PV technologies for their cost-reduction potential (in $/W) and time to market (in years to widespread adoption). The grid shows that innovations in materials and cell designs will help stabilize module prices at $0.90/W, while the cost of goods sold will fall on account of improved cell efficiencies, cheaper processes and thinner wafers.
‘Emerging PV technologies that are easy to scale, result in module efficiency gains, and [reduce] capital and materials costs will be game-changers for struggling module makers,’ says Fatima Toor, Lux research analyst and the lead author of the report.
Analysts evaluated various solar technologies on the horizon to assess which will be game changers and which will likely never be commercialized.
Among other findings, the report predicts that direct solidification will provide cheaper wafers, and that direct solidification of molten silicon offers the best way toward kerfless wafering (which eliminates losses from sawing). This technology is a top target on the Disruptive PV Technology Grid, with a market size of up to $600 million. 1366 Technologies is the clear leader and is expected to be the first to reach commercialization by 2013, according to Lux Research.
Alternatives to cell efficiency will increase. Anti-reflective and light-trapping coatings are second-tier technologies, but they are among the top targets, with a market size of more than $600 million. These technologies provide cost-effective alternatives for efficiency gains. According to Lux Research, Natcore is the leader in this space with likely commercialization this year.
Finally, new active layers are over the horizon. Copper zinc tin sulfide (CZTS) cell technology will eventually cannibalize thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) technology's market share through use of cheaper materials, eliminating the use of indium and gallium, the report predicts. Epitaxial Si technology – thin monocrystalline silicon – has the potential to replace amorphous silicon (a-Si) infrastructure and reach higher efficiencies than a-Si modules.