[PV EXPO] New Trends Emerging in PV Equipment, Components

Mar 2, 2009
Hiroshi Asakura, Nikkei Microdevices

Two major trends emerged at the 2nd International Photovoltaic Power Generation Expo, which took place from Feb 25 to 27, 2009, making it clear that the reach of the photovoltaic industry is spreading.

One of these trends was the large exhibition booths set up by component manufacturers, showing off their technical strengths at the prospect of a global launch. For example, Asahi Glass Co Ltd exhibited its actual product, which is composed of a SnO2 transparent conductive oxide (TCO) film formed on a glass substrate. With the light trapping effect of pyramid-shaped structures on the film surface, the product can increase conversion efficiency by 10-20%, according to the company.

The TCO film is formed by the offline method, which attaches the film afterwards by the CVD process. The shape of the pyramids can be varied depending on crystal growth conditions. Asahi Glass intends to sell the product for use in thin-film solar cells around the globe.

Kuraray Co Ltd showcased a sealing material made of PVB resin. In general, solar cells are made of a combination of a glass substrate and a back sheet sealed by EVA resin. In contrast, Kuraray's PVB resin can seal glass substrates without a back sheet. The use of glass substrates on both sides enhances the strength and weatherability of solar cells, making it possible to use them as skylights and other building materials.

The other trend is the advent of a number of new companies that claim to provide what they call a "turnkey," an integrated production line for solar cells. For example, Apex Inc offers an integrated manufacturing line for crystalline Si solar cells with the use of equipment made by PST Inc of Korea.

Apex has an advantage of low equipment cost over its competitors. When compared at the same production scale, an integrated production line with German equipment can cost about ¥1.5 billion to 2.2 billion (approx US$15.4 to 22.6), whereas Apex's line is ¥1.0 billion to 1.5 billion. Its production line has already been employed by a Korean solar cell manufacturer, according to the company.

In addition, Facility Co Ltd exhibited an integrated manufacturing line using equipment made by Schmid GmbH & Co of Germany, etc, and Mimasu Corp, too, showcased an integrated line as a turnkey.