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Manz CIGS solar power trumps fossil fuels

CIGS solar power from Manz is now at a similar cost level to electricity from fossil fuels and much cheaper than offshore wind. The firm has also set a world record of 14.6 percent total panel efficiency for thin films on a mass production line
The German firm Manz has achieved what it says is a technological breakthrough:.

The company's integrated production line for CIGS thin-film solar panels, the Manz CIGSfab, can be used to manufacture solar panels that in the future will supply power costing between four euro cents (Spain) and eight euro cents (Germany) per kilowatt hour, depending on the location.

This means the cost of solar power is on a similar level to electricity from fossil fuels and much cheaper than electricity from offshore wind parks.

Taking onto account taxes and duties as well as the rapidly increasing costs of fossil fuels, the green electricity clearly trumps the competition. According to Dieter Manz, founder and CEO of Manz AG, “The new technology has the potential to revolutionise the solar industry.”

The CIGS solar panel from Manz was manufactured on a mass production line and has a total panel efficiency of 14.6 percent, a world record in thin-film technology.

Manz achieves breakthrough in the thin-film solar sector with panel that sets the world record for efficiency

Manz believes it not only cuts the cost of solar power through a significant increase in panel efficiency, but also through advancements in the production technology used to manufacture the panels, for example by integrating an increasing number of process steps within the process chain.

“The thin-film panels manufactured on our systems are competitive everywhere in the world,” says Dieter Manz. “And as a result, the solar market’s growth will no longer be dependent on national subsidy conditions.”

CIGS thin-film solar panels can be manufactured for significantly less than crystalline silicon panels. This is because the semiconductor layer, which absorbs the sunlight, is comprised of one half affordable copper and is less than two millimetres thick – one-hundredth of a crystalline cell.

What's more, when manufacturing thin-film solar panels based on glass, both the complex silicon wafer production process and the need to connect the individual cells together are eliminated. The entire panel can be manufactured on a fully automated production line.

In the past, however, thin-film panels could not keep up with the efficiency rates of crystalline silicon panels – a drawback that Manz systems like the fully automated CIGSfab now make up for. The world record panel is the first time the efficiency of polycrystalline silicon solar panels has been achieved with a thin-film panel.

CIGS is considered the solar technology with the greatest potential to further cut costs and increase efficiency rates in the future. On the negative side, it contains the toxic and expensive group III elements indium and gallium.

Manz manufactured the world record CIGS panel on its own innovation line in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany. Manz acquired this line from panel manufacturer Würth Solar at the beginning of the year. As a result, the high-tech engineering firm has the ability to test and optimise new materials and production processes under mass-production conditions.

Manz claims to offer the only turnkey production line for CIGS thin-film solar panels currently available ( CIGSfab). The firm has succeeded in cutting the investment costs for the line by around 40 percent since it began working with the technology back in 2010.

In doing so, the company benefited from its wide-ranging expertise in a variety of technological fields, including automation, laser processes, vacuum coating, metrology, and wet-chemical processes. In this process, the high-tech engineering firm uses synergies that result from making advancements to these technologies in its three strategic areas of business: Solar, Display, and Battery.

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