7th ITRPV: PV tracks 21 percent learning curve, 200 GW cumulative landmark passed in 2015

There a few signs of relief in terms of price pressure on PV cell and module manufacturers expected in 2016. This was one of the findings of the latest ITRPV, produced by the German production equipment industrial association (VDMA), released today.

The ITRPV document finds that PV manufacturing capacity totaled some 60 GW in 2015, with capacity expansions currently underway likely to see that increase in 2016.

“The pressure on cell and more painful[ly] on module manufacturing will persist [in 2016],” the Roadmap concludes. This, it argues, necessitates continuing cost reductions in terms of production consumables and materials.

The ITRPV concludes that these cost reductions can be achieved by increasing Overall Equipment Efficeincy (OEE) of the existing installed capacity; more efficiency use of materials; the introduction of specialized end products for specific niches; and improved module power and cell efficiency on a cost-neutral basis.

Looking to the PV learning curve, the ITRPV finds that average crystalline silicon (c-Si) module prices declined from US$062/Wp in 2014 to $0.58/Wp in 2015, corresponding to a manufacturing capacity of 39.3 GWp and 50 GWp respectively.

Production processes

Turning to specific production processes, the ITRPV concludes that in 2015 slurry-based wafering processes remain dominant, with well over 90% market share in multicrystalline production and around 65% in mono, that a shift towards diamond wire is anticipated.

In monocystalline wafer production, the ITPRPV expects 2016 to be the year in which more than 50% of all wafering will deploy diamond wire. In multi production that is not expected to occur until 2023.

Turning to wafer thickness, the seventh Roadmap concludes that previous iterations of the document had overestimated the uptake of thin c-Si wafers. The roadmap concludes that wafer thickness of 180µm has remained the preferred thickness, with that likely to remain true in 2016. Mono wafer thickness is expected to decline to 160µm in 2018, however multi only to follow suit until after 2020. Diamond wire deployment is seen to a key for the deployment of very thin c-Si wafers.

Silver paste is forecast to remain the dominant force in metallization in the foreseeable future, with copper only accounting to around 7% of cell production in 2016. Lead-free pastes, the ITPRV concludes, will be used widely from 2017 onwards.

Silver line reduction is continuing in line with Roadmap predictions, having decreased from an average of 300mg in 2009 to 110mg in 2015 – a 66% reduction. Looking out to 2026, the ITRPV forecasts silver connections to have declined to 40 mg.

In terms of costs, the Roadmap concludes that with 95mg lines and paste costs of $479/kg, silver metallization costs will total only $0.01/Wp, with 20.5t of silver being used per GWp of PV module production.

Screen printing is forecast to remain the mainstay metallization process, for both front and rear side, with plating not expected to appear in mass production before 2018.

Production equipment throughput is being led by wet bench processes, with more than 7,500 wafers/hour being achieved on average in 2015, with cell metallization and classification proving a bottleneck with throughput between 3,000 to 4,000 wafers/hour.

If the progressive technology scenario is followed, as set out in the Roadmap, metallization and classification, thermal processes and chemical processes should converge to achieve throughputs approaching 10,000 wafers/hour in 2026. The progressive scenario requires the deployment of new high throughput tooling.

For cell connection, the seventh ITRPV claims another success, with 50µm frontside ribbons becoming the norm in 2015, down from 120µm in 2009. While three busbar configuration still accounts for over 75% of existing production, that will decline by around 10% in 2016, and to well below 50% in 2018. Four and five busbar and busbarless interconnection is all expected to increase through to 2016, when the three technologies are expected to account for well over 90% of production.

The widely reported growth of passivated emitter and rear contact (PERC) technology is reflected in the seventh ITRPV, with PERC concepts expected to increase market share to 45% by 2025. Heterojunction concepts are expected to increase share for niche applications, alongside IBC concepts, with Si-based tandem cells, presumably with perovskites, not appearing in the market until 2019.

On the efficiency side of the production equation, the Roadmap predicts multcrystalline PERC cells to exceed 20% efficiency on average by around 2020, and 60-cell multi modules 310 W.

Solar LCOE is expected to decline in step with PV cell and modules, with 2016 see a range of $0.044 to $0.09/kWh achieved, falling to $0.031 to $0.06/kWh in 2026 – for systems larger than 100kWp and with a life time of 25 years. System lifetime is also expected to extend to 30 years in the same period.

The seventh ITRPV was produced by the VDMA with input from 31 leading polycrystalline, wafer, crystalline cell, module, material, and equipment suppliers, along with PV research institutes.

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