A new type of crystalline silicon solar cell has been developed which may change the nature of the solar PV market: quasi-mono silicon. The two most popular types for solar panels for residential and commercial solar installations are either monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon solar panels. Once produced on a mass scale, this new technology will boast some of the best aspects of both mono and poly solar cells–including a polycrystalline silicon’s competitive price point and monocrystalline’s (generally) higher efficiency.
Although certainly not a blanket statement (as discussed previously), the average low-end monocrystalline solar panel will cost more than a polycrystalline solar panel of comparable quality. For this reason, plus the fact that a number of manufacturers have developed cost-effective ways to raise the efficiency level of polycrystalline cells, polycrystalline solar panels have begun to dominate the solar PV industry.
A number of solar cell and solar panel manufacturers have investigated the possibility of using the quasi-mono production process (in which the silicon ingot is cast as opposed to “grown“), but as of yet none of them have put it into commercial. Retrofitting existing silicon cell production equipment to manufacture the quasi-mono cells would be possible at a relatively low cost, and would allow manufacturers to produce the new technology at a cost close to that of polycrystalline cell production. According to Solar Novus Today, “With so many companies using similar ideas, it’s surprising that no major patent disputes have ensued and the technology has been allowed to proliferate.”
Nigel Mason, From UK-based PV Consulting, said, “With careful control of the vertical temperature gradient, the solidifying ingot will take up the crystal orientation of the seed wafer [cell]. This process not only gives an ingot that is largely monocrystalline, it also produces a square wafer, unlike the traditional mono process which typically gives a wafer with rounded corners resulting in reduced active area in the module.”
Although still not commercially available in most places, it may only be a matter of time before quasi-mono silicon makes it into the mainstream; the proposition is an attractive one. Roger Clark, of AGM IdealCast, a company with a patent for the production process, explains: “There are no industry-accepted standards, so cost comparison is difficult, but we estimate that, with a polysilicon feedstock price of $30/kg, our customers can achieve a savings of $0.45/wafer which equates to $0.11/W when compared with conventional mono wafers of a similar conversion efficiency.”
Source: Solar Novus Today
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