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Emerging Technologies to Boost Solar Profit Margins in 2014

Lux Research

Lux Research’s Disruptive PV Technology Grid identifies which emerging technologies will succeed and when

Boston, MA – May 23, 2012 – Generous funding of photovoltaic 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 Lux Research report.

Lux Research 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). It shows that innovations in materials and cell designs will help stabilize module prices at $0.90/W, while 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 reduced capital and materials costs will be game-changers for struggling module makers,” said Fatima Toor, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Searching for Game Changers in Photovoltaic Materials Innovations: Next-Generation Technologies that Drive Down $/W.”

Using the Disruptive PV Technology Grid, Lux Research analysts evaluated technologies on the horizon to assess which will be game changers and which will likely never be commercialized. Among their findings:

  • Direct solidification provides cheaper wafers. Direct solidification of molten Si offers the best way toward kerfless wafering (which eliminates losses from sawing), a Holy Grail for the solar industry. 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, expected to be the first to reach commercialization by 2013.

  • Alternatives to cell efficiency increase. Anti-reflective and light-trapping coatings are second-tier technologies but among the “top targets” with a market size of over $600 million. They provide cost-effective alternatives for efficiency gains. Natcore is the leader in this space with likely commercialization this year.

  • New active layers over the horizon. Copper zinc tin sulfide (CZTS) cell technology will eventually cannibalize thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) market share through use of cheaper materials, eliminating the use of indium and gallium. Epitaxial Si (epi-Si) technology, which is thin monocrystalline silicon, has the potential to replace amorphous silicon (a-Si) infrastructure and reach higher efficiencies than a-Si modules.

The report, titled “Searching for Game Changers in Photovoltaic Materials Innovations: Next-Generation Technologies that Drive Down $/W,” is part of the Lux Research Solar Components Intelligence service.