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CIGS solar panels market to shine through rest of decade

NanoMarkets forecasts revenues from CIGS panels will reach $4.4 billion by 2017

 While the recent announcement of a 150 MW solar farm supports the notion that CIGS technology is finally ready for prime time, NanoMarkets says that CIGS manufacturers will have to adopt new strategies to protect themselves from falling solar panel prices.

"CIGS Photovoltaics Markets – 2012" is the latest in NanoMarkets’ ongoing series of industry reports on CIGS markets. Applications sectors covered include rigid panels (conventional and BIPV), flexible PV, portable PV and BIPV glass. The report also includes in-depth analysis of the latest trends in CIGS manufacturing and their market impact. The eight-year forecasts in this report are broken out by application sector and by type of deposition/manufacturing. Both revenue and volume (MW) forecasts are included and the report also discusses the strategies of important suppliers of both CIGS panels and materials. 

To meet the challenge of very low-cost crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar panels, CIGS will need to continue to improve on its cost per watt. NanoMarkets expects CIGS to succeed in this regard through volume production and manufacturing efficiencies such as thinner absorber layers and aggressive recycling of absorber materials. CIGS can also compete with c-Si based on superior aesthetics and good performance in indirect light.

NanoMarkets believes that reducing the cost of encapsulation is the key to success for flexible CIGS panels, which will generate more than $635 million by 2017. Current use of complex dyadic film encapsulation is proving very expensive and the new report suggests that there may be some potential for lowering costs by using overcoats of SiN, SiO2 and/or silicon oxynitride (SiOxNy)before final module encapsulation. The report also says that the CIGS industry will embrace low-cost advanced plastic substrates going forward as a replacement for polyimide.

NanoMarkets also believes that CIGS manufacturing will take new directions resulting in higher efficiencies and lower costs. Laser annealing of the absorber layer will become more common and will enable more thermally sensitive substrates to be used.

However, the cost of laser annealing equipment will need to be reduced before this can happen.  Solution-based deposition is expected to play a growing role in the creation of CIGS panels based on new types of solvents. In the past, this type of approach has suffered as the result of high levels of impurities in the materials. However, hydrazine is now proposed as a solvent system for solution-based deposition, and has shown promising results in the lab. This new approach seems likely to considerable improve CIGS efficiency.
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