Thin-Film Panel Cost Can Be Reduced Further, Solar Frontier Says

(Bloomberg) — Thin-film solar panel costs have more room
to fall than more widely used crystalline silicon products,
according to a Japanese panel maker that’s expanding production
of the niche solar product.

Crystalline silicon panels, which account for more than 90
percent of all panels produced, are approaching their limits for
further cost reduction as the technology matures, said Satoru Kuriyagawa, chief technology officer of Solar Frontier K.K., a
wholly owned unit of Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K.

“There is still room for improving conversion efficiency
and reducing raw material costs,” he said. “Thin-film panels
are in a better position in terms of cost reduction.”

Improving conversion efficiency — the percentage of solar
energy that can be converted to electricity — boosts the amount
of power that can be produced from the same size of panel.

Tokyo-based Solar Frontier aims to improve the efficiency
of thin-film panels made at a new plant to 15 percent compared
with 13.8 percent at its main plant. The company is aiming to
reduce production costs by 30 percent at the plant, which opened
this year in the northern prefecture of Miyagi.

Thin-film panel makers such as Solar Frontier needs to work
on cutting costs of other components from suppliers such as the
racks on which panels are mounted, the official said.

“We need to increase the number of those who are willing
to use thin-film technology to as many as possible,” he said.

Solar Frontier makes panels using copper, indium, gallium
and selenium, known as CIGS. Solar Frontier competes with Tempe,
Arizona-based First Solar Inc. in the thin-film market.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Chisaki Watanabe in Tokyo at
cwatanabe5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at
landberg@bloomberg.net
Iain Wilson, Jason Rogers

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