Forecast for photovoltaic components13th May 2013
Manufacturing the various parts that go into the making of a solar photovoltaic system is big business.
Now, according to NPD Solarbuzz, solar photovoltaic wafer production is set to grow a whole 19 per cent in 2013.
For those unfamiliar with the term 'wafer,' this is a thin slice of semiconductor material used in making circuits and mircodevices, and an important component in the making of solar panels.
In the latest NPD Solarbuzz Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly publication, solar photovoltaic wafer production fell 15 per cent in 2012, however this year it's set to pass 30 GW and recover to its 2011 levels.
Nonetheless, NPD Solarbuzz predicts that industry utilisation will remain beneath 60 per cent, and that profitability will be hard to achieve for wafer manufacturers.
In the short to mid-term, multicrystalline silicon (multi c-Si) is predicted to dominate the wafer market.
However in challenge to this, higher efficiency solar cells can be made using monocrystalline silicon (mono c-Si) and therefore this type continues to be in demand - in particular in the Japanese market.
"Supported by attractive solar PV incentive rates, Japan will account for more than 10% of global PV demand in 2013," said Charles Annis, vice president at NPD Solarbuzz.
"With a strong rooftop segment and limitations on the availability of land for large-scale ground-mount installations, Japan has now become a key driver for mono c-Si based modules."
Yet in spite of this, NPD Solarbuzz noted that some manufacturers are now selling multi c-Si wafers with efficiencies of up to 18 per cent, so they still have the capability to remain competitive.
Overall predictions, though, forecast that in 2015, mono c-Si cell production will grow at a faster rate than multi c-Si cells, gaining an increasing market share and growing use in a number of applications.
This report comes in light of solar innovation taking place at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
Solar engineers and researchers from UNSW developed a way to increase the quality and efficiency of silicon using hydrogen.
This means that lower-cost silicon can be improved and provide efficiency levels between 21 and 23 per cent.
This is a huge project expected to reach completion in 2016, and being undertaken with help from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
It is receiving much commercial and manufacturing interest, showing Australia's at the forefront of solar technology and development.
Posted by Mike Peacock