pv magazine has published the winners of its 2016 Technology Highlights award and feature. Switzerland's Meyer Burger was selected as a joint winner along with Holland's Eternal Sun. An independent jury of PV industry experts reviewed 38 entries from European, U.S. and Chinese solar production equipment and materials suppliers.
The 38 entries are featured in a special 20-page article in the May edition of pv magazine, out now. Alongside Meyer Burger and Eternal Sun, BT Imaging's LIS-R3 laboratory inspection tool and 1366's Direct Wafer technology were selected by the jury for recognition as runners-up. In a special category, DSM's anti-soiling glass coating was selected as a Technology to Watch.
These products provide a superb cross-section of recent progress, said the University of New South Wales' Martin Green. "It was impressive to see the wide range of innovation covered by the eight finalists, ranging all the way from kerfless wafer production to flash simulators able to test modules in the field. Innovations such as these are key to the improved performance and ongoing cost reductions expected from the PV industry over the coming decade."
Meyer Burger DW288
The Meyer Burger DW288 Series 3 diamond wire saw was selected as a Technology Highlights award winner, due to a series of innovations employed in the tool. These innovations deliver reduced kerf when wafering and increased durability of the diamond wires, as a result of the DW288's wire management system.
"This technology is likely to have a big impact on the market in the next five
years," said jury member Arno Stassen, the Head of Business Development at silver paste supplier Heraeus.
The Australian National University's (ANU) Andrew Blakers noted that the DW288 delivered: "Improved handling of diamond wire allow[ing] for less wear and tear. Importantly, very thin wires coupled with highly uniform wafer thickness
open the way to much-reduced thickness, and hence lower silicon consumption
The jury concluded that while diamond wire wafering is not a new technology, its impact in commercial production today is growing at a rapid pace and is likely to have a striking impact on production in coming years.
"Meyer Burger is very pleased with the response from our customers to the DW288 Series 3 with a good volume of orders already received and other customers in test phases," said Meyer Burger in a statement. "In the past year, we have indeed seen a clear shift in demand from slurry-based to diamond wire-based cutting technologies."
Meyer Burger noted that while its DW288 was initially deployed in monocrystalline production, it has been optimized for multi wafering.
"Meyer Burger has adapted the process for multi-crystalline wafers with a similar level of performance [as with mono], and we are working closely with our customers on the downstream issue of texturing. Meyer Burger already offers a plasma texturing solution, but we are aware that most cell manufacturers currently use chemical texturing processes."
Meyer Burger added that the DW288 Series 3 brings together three process optimizations: reduced wire thickness; increased wafering speed; and improved diamond wire material lifetime, with its Diamond Wire Management System a key facilitating innovation.
"Diamond wire material is a significant cost factor in the production of solar wafers," said Meyer Burger. "In combination with the reduced diamond wire thickness, the cutting time has also been reduced from three to two hours and the diamond wire usage decreased to one meter per wafer."
Eternal Sun Climate Chamber Sun Simulator
While Meyer Burger is well established as a leading technology provider to PV manufacturers, its co-award winner Eternal Sun represents a fast-growing new player on the solar production scene.
Eternal Sun was awarded the 2016 Technology Highlights award for its Climate Chamber and Solar Simulatory, which brings together two testing processes in one piece of equipment. The Dutch company noted that by bringing together a climate chamber with its patented sun simulator light source, it can assist with quality verification for the developers of PV projects globally.
"Long term reliability with respect to local conditions needs to be verified," said Chokri Mousaoui, the CEO of the Eternal Sun Group. "Investors and installers need to be able to understand and assess the reliability impact on ROI. For this to two things are required: being able to simulate local conditions, and a fast, intensive and multi-stress test, which remains representative for local outdoor exposure.
This piece of equipment is able to perform both which leads to a combined stress test, consisting of sunlight, damp, heat and electrical load. This multi-stress test further accelerates aging while causing unique failure modes that are not detected with current separate stress tests of the IEC standards."
Stefan Roest, Eternal Sun's CTO, added that the gas lamps deployed in its solar simulator deliver a lower cost-of-ownership when compared to a Xenon light source. "A flasher is relevant when you perform a flash test in a fraction of second to measure the performance of a module," said Roest. "With the steady state sunlight in the climate chamber simulator, you can accelerate aging while providing real-time in-situ performance measurements."
Eternal Sun recognized the role of the Solliance research partnership for the development of the Climate Chamber Solar Simulator.
"Previously, it has always been something separate: first, you test your modules with a flasher and get all your electronic data; afterward, you put them into a climate
chamber for days or even weeks, then you take them out and flash them again," said jury member Götz Fischbeck, the CEO of Smart Solar Consulting. "Now, with the innovation from Eternal Sun, you can run the test and climate simulation simultaneously."
Andrea Viaro, jury member and JinkoSolar's Technical Manager EU described the Eternal Sun tool as representing "a very impressive solution with a high degree of innovation."
M10 Industries' Kubus MTS 5000 stringer and 3D Micromac's Thermal Laser Cell Separation production tools rounded out the eight finalists and were both highly commended by the jury.
The 2016 Technology Highlights jury consisted of Xiaoting Wang from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Finlay Colville from Solar Media, JinkoSolar Europe's Andrea Viaro, Arno Strassen from Heraeus, Andrew Blakers from the ANU and Smart Solar Consulting CEO Götz Fischbeck.