Gases and chemicals contribute a significant part of the bill of materials for PV cells, and as the industry grows, material suppliers will face a number of key challenges to meet demand. Kaytie Lilley of Linde Electronics offers PES an illuminating view of the sector.
The production of photovoltaic (PV) electricity has doubled every two years since 2002, with a CAGR of 48 percent, making it the world’s fastest-growing power generation technology.
At the end of 2008, according to industry data, cumulative global solar module production capacity was pegged at approximately 8000 megawatts. While actual production has been hampered by lack of poly silicon, this shortage is expected to ease from 2009 onwards.
Demand through 2008 has been strong driven by financial incentives, such as preferential feed-in tariffs for solar-generated electricity and net metering, in many countries including Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and parts of the United States. There has been a transition from mostly residential rooftop installations to more commercial and utility scale projects.
While the recent financial conditions have tempered the growth, cell production capacity is still expected to grow to over 30GW by 2012 according to several market analysts. New technologies based on thin film silicon, Cadmium Telluride and CIGS are expected to take a growing share of the market due to there lower cost basis. Out of these, thin-film silicon is particularly promising due to its scalability, good performance in diffuse light and well known material properties.