Thin-film solar cells are rapidly taking market share away from the established crystalline technology, with their portion of photovoltaic wattage projected to more than double by 2013, according to a recent report from iSuppli Corp.
iSuppli believes thin film will grow to account for 31% of the global solar panel market in terms of watts by 2013 – up from 14% in 2008.
‘The market viability of thin-film has been solidly established by First Solar Inc. as it rockets to become the world's top solar panel maker this year, with more than a gigawatt of production,’ says Greg Sheppard, chief research officer for iSuppli. ‘At the same time, the company has driven its cost of production to less than 90 cents per watt, keeping its costs at approximately half the level of crystalline module producers.’
The average thin-film solar panel price is expected to decline to $1.40 per watt in 2010, down 17.6% from $1.70 in 2009. Average prices for crystalline panels are expected to drop to $2.00 per watt in 2010, down 20% from $2.50 this year.
Through 2012, crystalline prices will continue to close the thin-film pricing gap to some degree because its purveyors collectively have deeper pockets and keep pouring on capital spending, technology R&D developments and manufacturing refinements, iSuppli adds.
Another accelerator of thin-film technology is the rising availability of turnkey production lines from companies such as Applied Materials, Oerlikon and Centrotherm.