I pointed in early May how solar manufacturers can differentiate their products, particularly during the economic slowdown that has dropped capacity utilization to below 50%, and most importantly, how can they do it cheaply. First Solar has set the benchmark at 92 cents per watt for production in Malaysia. Aside from the traditional lingo such as reduce costs or economies of scale, there is a better way – increase efficiency. First Solar expects to cut costs from 92 cents per watt to between 52 and 62 cents per watt. by improving the conversion efficiency of its cadmium telluride panels to somewhere between 16 and 18 percent.
1366 Technologies, is developing a technology that it claims can boost multicrystalline silicon cells from 16%t efficiency to 18% efficiency, thereby reducing their cost per watt, by giving the solar cells a rougher texture. The startup raised $12.4 million in 2008.
Xerocoat developed a coating strategy that increases efficiency by 4% on not only a multicrystalline silicon cell but thin film cells as well. The company received $3 million in DOE funding in 2009.
SolarPA, Lehigh Valley, PA, has developed a process of using nanocoatings utilizing 3-7 nm proprietary nanomaterials to increase the efficiency of solar cells by as much as 12%.
Previously, the start-up had achieved a 10% increase in efficiency on both crystalline and thin-film solar cells using an electrospinning process. New achievements have demonstrated a 12% increase in efficiency using a spin-on process, which embeds the nanomaterial in a polymer matrix that can be deposited with conventional spin-on or spray-on equipment.
The technology replaces existing antireflection coatings (NYSE:ARC) using SiN deposited by expensive vacuum CVD processes, thus lowering the processing cost as well as increasing the efficiency.
While thin film solar cells do not used ARC, SolarPA’s technology serves as a replacement for an expensive vacuum deposited microcrystalline thin film that most companies are experimenting with but largely unsuccessfully.
The company plans to present at the Pennsylvania NanoMaterials Commercialization Center workshop at Penn State University on October 20, 2009 and the ISA Vision Summit 2010, India, in February 2010.