Has the PV industry finally come of age? The statistics certainly look good, even if the economic downturn has – temporarily, perhaps – slightly dented the industry’s image as one which seemed to offer unlimited growthAnd, credit crunch aside, there is still much to celebrate, particularly in Europe.
The continent accounted for no less than 82 per cent of world demand in 2008 and Spain saw an unprecedented 285 per cent growth in PV installations. Overall, world solar PV market installations reached a record high of 5.95 GW, representing 110 per cent growth over the previous year.
Even more good news for Europe is that European manufacturing is driving this boom across the world. While America’s PV manufacturing base has increased significantly, and China and Taiwan continue to increase their share of global solar cell production, rising to 44 per cent in 2008 from 35 per cent in 2007, Germany continues to dominate the market both in manufacturing and vital research and development.
The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft research organisation in Germany this year opened the “Centre for Organic Materials and Electronic Devices Dresden” (COMEDD) in order to develop economically viable processes for organic semiconductor devices, such as organic solar cells and light-emitting diodes. At the same time, the Fraunhofer ISE inaugurated its new laboratory for silicon material research in Freiburg, the “Silicon Materials Technology and Evaluation Centre” (SIMTEC). This institute hopes to improve silicon crystallization and wafer technology as well as crystallising silicon thin film technology.