Manz Automation outlines strategy to pv magazine for positioning CIGS as lowest cost module available

They encompass: (i) to sell the first CIGS (copper indium gallium (di)selenide) line; (ii) to aim for a 15 percent CIGS efficiency; (iii) to produce a better yield on its product line; and (iv) to reduce overall costs, consequently achieving the cheapest cost per watt with CIGS solar modules.

“Our first target is to sell the first line, which we are confident we can do this year,” explained Hipp to pv magazine. In the future, the company will then look at expanding its offerings to “several lines a year”.

He then went on to outline Manz’s intentions, along with research from ZSW, to increase cell efficiency from 12.8 percent, “which is currently at the top of the range industry-wide”, to 13.5 percent. He added that in the future the company would like to reach 15 percent efficiency.

When asked if this was realistic, he explained: “Yes. In the labs at the moment, they [the researchers at ZSW] have reached 20.3 percent efficiency so there is a lot of potential in CIGS and we are confident that we can transfer lab efficiencies onto the production line.” He went on to tell pv magazine that if Manz reaches 15 percent efficiency, this technology will not just be applied to new lines, but will also be offered to customers who have older, less efficient CIGS modules in the form of upgrade packages.

Thirdly, the company is looking to produce a better yield on the existing product line. Hipp said that currently CIGS module sizes are 600 by 1,200 mm. However, within the next three years, the company would like to try and increase this to around 1.2 meters by 1.8 meters, “which will help to increase efficiency and output” without significantly increasing costs.

In completing this stage, the company says it will then be able to successfully reach its fourth aim, which is to reduce the overall costs of production per watt. “We believe that CIGS can provide the cheapest cost per watt” over other thin film solar modules, said Hipp.

When asked why Manz had chosen to collaborate with Würth Solar, he explained that the company has wanted to find a partner with an existing CIGS line. Würth “was the best company on the market, with the most stable process and the best efficiency”.

Last week, the company announced it had signed a €50 million know-how licensing and strategic alliance agreement with Würth Solar and ZSW. Under the agreement, Manz gains exclusive rights to the use to Würth’s CIGS production technology and exclusive access to their research results regarding CIGS modules on glass substrates.

This means the company is now the only provider in the world who can currently offer an integrated, fully productive production line for CIGS solar modules that can be operated cost efficiently. “We want to become the market leader for integrated thin film production lines,” concluded Hipp.