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December 18th, 2009

Driving Down Thin-film Costs

The photovoltaic industry was hit hard this year, contracting in size as the economic crisis took hold, credit markets tightened and the once-hot Spanish market slowed to a crawl. But speakers at a recent thin-film summit in San Francisco were largely optimistic, with many saying that as the solar market rebounds thin-film technologies are poised to successfully compete against conventional, crystalline silicon-based modules and other sources of electricity. To grab more market share, however, the resonating theme from the conference was cost reduction.

"The bottom line is cost," said Harin Ullal, a project manager focused on PV for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). "Installers want the lowest cost systems, so everyone is trying to squeeze out every cent possible." Ullal, who has compiled a list of 60 U.S.-based thin-film companies, said during the summit that most industry players aim to reduce costs through a combination of increased scale, module efficiency gains, higher yield and less (or cheaper) materials.


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