The International Technology Roadmap for PV
The International Technology Roadmap for PV
By Stephan Raithel, director PV Europe, SEMI PV Group
The current situation in Europe’s photovoltaic industry is characterized by uncertainty driven by unclear political policies. Increasingly, countries in Europe are looking for a sustainable energy future, to reduce their reliance on electricity generated by nuclear and other fossil fuels and to move towards generating renewable energy such as solar, wind, and biomass. However, so far, not one European country has developed a master plan to enable this fundamental energy turnaround. In addition to the political parameters, it is critical to work jointly on technology innovations. Only continuous technology improvement and supportive public policy will ensure that photovoltaic technology will play a significant role in creating a new energy future for the world.
At this point, the International Technology Roadmap for PV (ITRPV) facilitated by the SEMI PV Group is more important than ever. More than 20 participating companies are working towards the goal of making PV more competitive and ensuring technological progress. This effort is extraordinary because companies that are competitors are working at a pre-competitive level, discussing common manufacturing challenges and trends in business. This truly is a feat in a competitive world — an intensive dialog within the entire photovoltaic supply chain, sharing ideas and mobilizing potential for further improvements. It is clear that the participating companies are committed. They know that commonly defined objectives, besides product differentiation and excellent business processes, are indispensable for further sustainable growth. Lean costs, international standards and guidelines for the entire value chain of the silicon photovoltaics industry — a perfect win-win situation. SEMI PV Group’s mission and vision is to ensure the growth of the PV industry and to accelerate technical advancements.
Finding tomorrow’s business markets is the second step. Analysis of the current situation is critical. At present, leading analysts are noticing significant overcapacities on the market. Henning Wicht, director and principal analyst of Photovoltaics at IHS iSuppli, describes the current situation, "The production capacity is currently twice as high as the demand. This may result in difficulties for some companies. The decisive factor will be whether the companies will manage to optimise their cost structures, fully utilize their plants and consequently reduce the unit cost."
Analysts are expecting a slight decrease in the demand for solar systems in 2012. Wicht says, "Throughout Europe, we are expecting between 10 to 13 gigawatts. Growth markets are the U.S. with roughly 3 gigawatts and China, which will install 3 to 4 gigawatts." The achievement of this quantity will also depend on the ability of European companies to prove themselves in the face of the price war with competitors from Asia and the U.S. "However, everyone is subject to price pressure, also the Asian companies. Meanwhile, capacities are being cut back even in these countries," underlines Wicht.
In 2012, solar companies will increasingly tap into new markets to generate further sales for their production capacities. However, these measures will not be reflected in the sales volume before 2013. The major demand for modules will remain in the established markets in 2012 as well. The good news is that these markets also feature growth potential — as shown in 2011 by the preliminary figures of 7.5 gigawatts, and of these, 3 gigawatts in December for Germany. The module and component prices will remain under pressure because in 2012, PV power will generally still be more expensive than wind energy or fossil/nuclear power generation.
To reduce costs, PV companies need to take a close look at materials. The use of innovative materials can lead to positive cost effects and increased efficiency at the same time. European companies and research institutes are leading in these fields. The PV industry benefits also from the progress made in replacing silver. Silver is still seen as an essential component for the production of solar cells. It is important to reduce the quantity of silver required, so alternative materials must be found now. Consequently, only the replacement of expensive silver by lower-cost material, such as copper, will lead to reduced manufacturing costs. Cost reduction is indispensable to remain competitive. This also includes a price reduction for production machines, the efficiency and output is to increase, though.
The overall goal of PV manufacturing is to achieve sustainable growth with lower-unit prices. Despite all the turbulence and nebulous political signals that the PV industry deals with, the International Technology Roadmap for PV (www.ITRPV.net) is a tool to help the PV industry get ready for the future. It is a guideline for the entire value chain of the silicon photovoltaics industry. Insights gained provide advantages for all stakeholders — from the material supplier to the final customer, who also benefits directly from these insights. After all, solar is an environmentally-friendly, sustainable, unlimited energy source — and working together on global solutions can provide a master plan that helps change the world and allows for profitable growth of the PV industry. On a global level, SEMI PV Group will continue to encourage collaboration along the whole supply chain — especially through our SEMI International Standards program for PV and the International Technology Roadmap for PV. These are fundamental bases for progress in PV technology, leading to solutions that solve problems more effectively and efficiently.
The third edition of the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics will be presented at the 6th PV Fab Managers Forum on March 25-27 at the Hotel Kempinski Bristol in Berlin. Leading European, American, and Asian manufacturers of silicon wafers, solar cells and modules contributed to the latest roadmap updates. The PV Fab Managers Forum — where solar industry decision makers as well as scientists and experts from research institutes and universities gather annually to discuss current challenges in the industry — is the ideal venue for the PV Roadmap update. For more information, visit at www.pvgroup.org/pvfmf.
March 8, 2012