According to Bloomberg News and Dieter Manz, the CEO of Manz AG, companies such as Samsung, LG and Foxxcon have the capability to start producing thin film solar cells (TFSC) at a price of $0.30 per watt (45 cents down from $0.75) if they modify their manufacturing lines used to assemble LCDs.
The working mechanisms behind the thin film solar panels are the same as their “thick” counterparts, the crystalline-based solar panels (mono- and polycrystalline). Both use photovoltaic cells to collect sunlight and to convert it into electrical current through the interaction between the sunlight and the semiconductor inside the cells. The electricity generated can immediately be used or saved with batteries (and other technologies) for backup power at night or on cloudy days.
Thin film solar cells are relatively new if compared with mono- and polycrystalline solar cells. The main difference, and advantage of a TFSC, is that it is typically constructed with amorphous silicon, which is a lot cheaper than purified bulk silicon wafers.
The technology has for several years been thought of to be a market dominator, but the cost-competitiveness has not been as good as once expected and the progress has been considerably slowed.
However, if new manufacturing techniques with the potential of solar panels costs by more than half (if the promises are held true), the growth of TFSC will take a big boost in the next coming years.
Many other companies around the world are starting to show their interest for TFSC: GE announced their massive $600 million Denver thin film solar manufacturing plant last October. Two months later, Foxxcon, the manufacturer of iPhones and iPads, announced another solar manufacturing plant in the Jiangsu province in China.
According to Mantz, it will not be long before the leading LCD manufacturers will step into the market of thin-film solar cells:
“In three years, more than half the players will be new entrants,” Manz said in an interview in Munich June 13. “Samsung, LG, Foxconn, all of them will come. For them it was too small before, so they wait for the market to be 100 gigawatts and then they step in.”