The report states that while glass will continue to dominate as substrate and encapsulant materials used for thin film photovoltaics, new materials will be gaining importance rapidly. These new materials include metal foils, plastics and ceramics.
The main driver for using these new materials will be the need to support flexible PV in order to reduce PV panel costs and the rise of intrinsically flexible products; notably those used for building-integrated PV (BIPV). Now that the silicon shortage is over, there is a burden on the manufacturers of the newer forms of PV to find new ways to compete with c-Si modules. Newer forms of PV are often touted for their flexibility, but the fact is that today they consist overwhelmingly of fully glass-encapsulated modules.
In total, the thin film PV substrate and encapsulation market is expected to reach US$1.3 billion by 2015 and heading towards US$1.8 billion by the year 2017. And while some of the most advanced encapsulation systems have proved difficult to develop and come with a high cost, NanoMarkets has identified several areas where these systems are beginning to make economic sense, most notably in the CIGS sector as the report highlights.