Meyer Burger secures first order for SmartWire technology

Meyer Burger has announced an order for a technology to replace the silver busbars in PV cells with a fine copper mesh, which the company says increases output and reduces costs.

The company will supply and install its SmartWire Connection Technology for a solar PV module line in Poland to be opened in collaboration with Hanplast and Freevolt. This line will have an annual capacity of 80 MW, and delivery of the machines and start of production are both planned for the first half of 2015.

Meyer Burger did not respond to request for comment by press time, but PV-Tech reports that this will be the first commercial SmartWire line in the world, following a pilot line developed by Meyer Burger.

The company first rolled out the SmartWire solution in February 2013, after purchasing the technology from Day4 Energy and developing it further. Since that time GT Advanced Technologies has developed a similar approach with its Merlin technology.

It is hard to gauge the success of this approach, as PV equipment orders have been depressed for years. However, the PV equipment industry posted its first positive book-to-bill ratio in three years during the first quarter of 2014, and as new orders begin coming in SmartWire and similar technologies may gain interest.

Meyer Burger cites several advantages to the technology. The company says that by providing a dense contact matrix of up to 2,660 points on each cell, it can increase yields 3% at the module level compared to standard three-busbar designs.

This is in part due to reduced reflection, and Meyer Burger say that with the new design effective shading is reduced by 30%. Also, due to the use of a wire mesh cell performance is less impacted by micro cracks and cell breaks.

The most significant improvement may be the reduction in silver usage. SmartWire technology reduces silver use by an estimated 80%, and with the combination of less silver and thinner fingers brings Meyer Burger estimates that production costs are reduced by US$7 per module.

SmartWire technology can be used with all crystalline silicon technologies, and Meyer Burger says that the technology is particularly suited for heterojunction PV cells as the SmartWire process typically takes place a lower temperatures than traditional busbar soldering.