IHS: n-type silicon, other new technologies to come in 2014

A recent report published by IHS research suggests that next-generation PV technologies will enter the mainstream in 2014 now that the punishing downturn in PV manufacturing is behind us and capital expenditure in PV manufacturing is set to bounce back.

Among the key trends predicted in the IHS report is a shift in mono-crystalline silicon solar panel technology that will result in a growing market share for the technology. The move from p-type silicon to n-type silicon (pictured above) is expected to drive this change.

In the thin-film solar space, Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) technology will continue to dominate as major CdTe players such as First Solar and Solar Frontier add more manufacturing capacity and continue improving CdTe performance.

Jon Campos from IHS surmises, “Innovative technologies will be atop the agendas of major solar manufacturers globally now that supply and demand has come to closer alignment.”

IHS also predicts that technological changes further up-stream that will benefit PV customers in the form of lower costs. Among these is a change in the way silicon wafers, the main substrate used to make solar cells, are produced. Analysts predict that steel wires, which are used to slice large blocks (called ingots) into wafers, will be increasingly replaced by more cost-effective diamond-tipped wires.

However, technology may not be the only driver for lower prices. According to previous forecasts by IHS, overcapacity is still persistent in the industry and may cause average selling prices of PV modules to decrease by approximately 10% in 2014 even as module manufacturers such as Trina Solar predict the opposite due to pressures to improve profit margins for manufacturers, which have become unsustainably low in the last 2 years.

Campos adds, “While most experts thought that overcapacity issue would remain significantly longer, the fundamental assumptions made by IHS were that the industry would move toward market equilibrium behind increasing demand in the emerging markets, and that PV manufacturers would turn to advanced technologies to compete with traditional forms of energy production—assumptions that are now coming to fruition.”

Further trends on cost, manufacturing materials and technologies are mentioned in the full report from IHS titled “PV Manufacturing Technology Report – World 2014”. Although the report is behind a paywall, IHS’ other top predictions for the 2014 solar market can be found here.

Top Image Credit: ISFH

© Solar Choice Pty Ltd 2014

Nitin Nampalli