So much attention gets focused on thin film aroundthese here parts that it’s easy to forget that crystalline silicon(c-Si) PV still makes up more than three-fourths of the module market(for more details on this, you can find our free research note on 2009cell and module production here). To some extent, this is understandable: the obvious exception of CdTe-producer-that-shall-not-be-named aside, thin film is still very much a work in progress as regardscommercialization, with much scope for future technological and economic improvement; c-Si, on the other hand, is considered a mature andwell-understood (read: boring) technology, with only incrementalimprovements in cost and efficiency expected over the coming years. Andof course, Davids are far more interesting than Goliaths.
It is generally true that efficiencies for most c-Si firms haveregistered only incremental gains over the past few years; however,amongst this large mass of relatively undifferentiated firms, a smallhandful of players are attempting to drive step-function improvements in cell efficiency. While some of these firms have been ahead of the restof the pack for years, the initiatives of others are still inearly-stage commercialization. Besides the bragging rights anddistinctiveness they confer, efficiency improvements also drivereductions in cost, both on the module manufacturing and the BOS fronts, although the R&D spend required to maintain improvements is notinsignificant, and higher efficiency cell configurations can be moreexpensive to manufacture. Below, we profile the firms that stand at theforefront of crystalline silicon efficiency, both now and looking to the future, and put their efficiency initiatives under the microscope.