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Process Relations vFinal DR 18/12/09 09:33 Page 26
While this top-down, government-led, approach has resulted in
significant progress in certain countries, there has also been a parallel
development. At the same time there has been a surge in ‘bottom-up’
approaches to cost reduction by PV manufacturers and suppliers
President Obama has also shown willingness for However, for any alternatives to stand a chance
government led investment in PV R&D in America, development has to be both streamlined and
stating that he wants solar cells to be “as cheap as accelerated, starting today.
Issue VI 2009
paint”, although the intention in the US currently is
to use tax credits rather than FITs. This means that there still remains huge potential
for other reductions in the cost of PV technology.
While this top-down, government-led, approach At Process Relations we have identified three
has resulted in significant progress in certain areas where there are significant gains to be
countries, there has also been a parallel made: new, more cost effective material systems
development. At the same time there has been a need to be developed; new technologies that surge in ‘bottom-up’ approaches to cost reduction help save materials, or enable materials to be
by PV manufacturers and suppliers. In particular used more efficiently, are required; and lastly,
this has meant a focus on reducing material costs better predictions of incurred manufacturing
and of broader manufacturing costs. The simple and material costs as well as sustainability are
fact is that current technologies simply cannot also needed.
deliver the required cost efficiencies and new
technologies based on cheaper and different I believe that by implementing advanced software
materials are on the critical path. Just to make life tools to support the sustainable development of
tricky, resources of currently used materials manufacturing process it is possible to achieve
(especially metals and dopants) are getting scarce, these gains. Systems such as XperiDesk offer a
are highly toxic (posing their own problems) and straightforward way to enable much faster
very expensive. As an example of this focus there development of new material systems and it also
is now a lot of attention on thin film technologies, provides cost and sustainability predictions to be
as opposed to crystalline silicon approaches to PV directly based on accurate material usage and
technology. The interest is largely due to the low production costs.
cost nature of thin film - lower material costs, lower
manufacturing costs and lower system costs. However, perhaps the key benefit is the inclusion
of powerful simulation tools. Using these tools PV
engineers can experiment with alternative
manufacturing processes and material
combinations virtually. This means that materials
and other resources do not have to be used to
perform a large number of experiments and tests
as, instead, a large proportion of the testing and
refinement of new developments can be done in
software, meaning that when actual physical
experiments or manufacturing is done it is more
reliable and less likely to result in waste.
The PV market continues to mature rapidly and
slowly it is becoming a more viable component in
the wider electricity grids. However, in most
countries the PV market remains a niche player.
But the combination of government incentives and
technological improvements will significantly alter
the PV industry. The continued development of
both top-down and bottom-up approaches to cost
reductions will ultimately make PV technology a
viable commercial industry.
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