Messe Düsseldorf North America - Trade Show Daily

Photovoltaics taking big steps towards competitiveness - solarpeq 2012

Posted by Anne Meerboth-Maltz on Wed, Sep 5, 2012 @ 12:17 PM

Following the drop of module prices, solar energy systems cannot get much cheaper for the time being – or so we thought. But the cost reduction potential of photovoltaics is far from exhausted: when it comes to raw materials and components, considerable savings are still possible.

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The reason for the rapid price decrease is the tough competition within the PV industry. Chinese manufacturers in particular have invested heavily in new technology and have quickly developed major production facilities. The consequence: massive surplus capacities which are forcing producers to sell their modules in some cases below their production costs.

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For the solar energy industry the price decline is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, an increasing number of manufacturers worldwide are in the red because due to the high losses caused in the price battle with their Asian competitors. On the other hand, the PV sector is taking giant strides towards competitiveness. According to the standard electricity price formula (with system prices of 1.50 Euro per watt), the kilowatt hour (kWh) can already be produced for 12 Eurocents today. As a result, solar power in Germany is still around four Eurocents more expensive than the kWh produced by conventional gas power and coal power stations, which currently costs about eight Eurocents. Due to lower electricity production costs, PV is already very close to being competitive in countries such as Italy, Spain and the U.S. In many nations of the world, solar energy will therefore no longer be dependent on funding.

But taking the last step towards competitiveness will be tough for the sector. According to a study conducted by the British market research institute IMS Research in early 2011, the price of wafers for example - the preliminary stage of cells - fell by 70% to 30 US cents by the first quarter of 2012. Therefore there is not much downwards range in this key sector of the solar value chain.

 

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Nevertheless, there is hope for the solar energy industry. The system level, including inverters, frames and cabling along with installation, still offers great savings potential. Whereas as much as one third of the total costs of a solar project were still accounted for by the so-called Balance-of-System (BOS) costs in 2010, their share is now approximately around half of that.

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            On the raw materials side, the price curve is also clearly moving downwards. Raw materials expert Simon Jäger from the Frankfurt Dekabank estimatesthat the silicone price will reach a new record low of $20 per kilogram in the coming months due to increasing production capacities. By comparison: when the PV boom started five years ago, due to the dramatic increase in demand, 1 kg of silicon on the spot market cost up to $400, in other words 20 times the current amount.

Another approach aimed at reducing costs is offered by so-called alumino-silicate glass, which can be obtained cost effectively from residual materials such as industrial slay, and compared to the previously used raw glass, offers the advantage of coating at high temperatures.

At solarpeq 2012, International Trade Fair for Solar Production Equipment and the concurrently staged glasstec 2012, International Trade Fair for Glass Production – Processing – Products, from October 23 – 26, 2012 in Düsseldorf, Germany, visitors will get a broad overview of the innovations and visions presented by the glass producers. In addition, on October 22 and 23, the “solar meets glass” conference will focus on the interface topics of the glass and solar energy industry and also address the issue of costs.


Topics: glass, glass show, glasstec, solar, solar technology, solarpeq, glass trade fair, glass trade show