Challenges in Thin-Film Solar
The world is trying to go “green”. State and countries are trying to meet a significant portion of their energy needs with renewable sources. Additionally, world events, such as the nuclear disaster in Japan, have changed the politics and thinking about the requirements for clean energy. As their costs become more competitive, renewable energy sources such as wind, geothermal, and solar can provide an alternative to fossil fuel and nuclear based power. Thin-film solar technologies have held the promise of reduced costs for solar power generation. The solar photovoltaic market landscape, however, is rapidly changing. In the past year, due to falling crystalline silicon prices and increased photovoltaic module manufacturing capacity, the price of solar panels has dropped dramatically. With this price shift, the potential cost advantage of thin-film has nearly disappeared. In addition to significant commercial questions, thin-film solar faces a number of technical challenges. Thin-film solar technology (CdTe, CIGS, CIS, and CZTS) is much younger than typical crystalline silicon and does not have the benefit of years of actual field installations. Some of the specific issues faced by thin-film are protection from the elements and the testing methods to predict product life. For thin-film to become a significant part of the photovoltaic market, it will need to answer these commercial and technical questions.