An increased focus on quality will drive growth in the materials market that supports solar photovoltaic panel production, according to a report from Lux Research.
Oversupply of solar modules is beginning to balance out and the demand is expected to equal supply by 2015, according to the report. That will drive growth in the PV materials market up 52 percent to become a $27.2 billion market by 2015. Metals, metallization pastes and metallic absorber materials will see the biggest growth, according to the report.
“The one thing that really stood out to me the most is that it’s not just about the dollar per watt anymore,” said Fatima Toor, a research analyst at Lux and the report author. “It’s more about dollar per kilowatt hour and quality.”
Solar panel manufacturers that produce low-quality modules that don’t last are falling behind, whil manufacturers that boast long-lasting, highly efficient and top qualiy modules are pushing ahead, Toor said.
“That’s the strategy SunPower has adopted,” she said. “They guarantee the best quality and the highest efficiency.”
And that’s what consumers have been buying. They want to know they’ll get the promised return on their investment.
That new focus on quality wil drive a different materials market, Toor said.
“Differentiated materials that enable high cell or module efficiencies or longer lifetime will be able to earn a premium and cash in on the growing demand,” she said.
Crystaline silicone will take the lion’s share of solar materials market growth, surging to $23.8 billion by 2018. Materials that will encourage differentiation and innovation for greater efficiency and power output will also shine, Toor said. That means things like Innovalight’s silicon inks for selective emitter cell design could see significant growth along with innovations from other emerging companies like Notcore Technologies, BandgapEngineering and Polyrise.
There is also a lot of opportinty for companies develing anti-reflective coatings for solar modules.
“It’s a very simple change,” Toor said. “But it could be disruptive.”
She said anti-reflective coatings can be simple, inexpensive glass coatings sprayed on before modules are shipped. It would add little cost, but could contribute significantly to power output.
Backsheets are another technology that has growth potential. Companies like Dupont are already experimenting with lacing backsheets with conductive metals to increase their power output. Toor said a lot of energy is lost between the panel and the inverter and part of that is conductivity of panel backsheets.
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