Thin Film News Brief 10 -16 December 2014

Companies mentioned: First Solar, Clean Energy Collective, Takara Leben, Hitachi Zosen, Solar Frontier, TU Delft, EPFL PV Laboratory, Hanergy Holding Group, Global Solar Energy Inc., Miasole Inc., Alta Devices, Q-Cells, and Orbotech LT Solar.

Clean Energy Collective's 144 kW Putney Community Solar Array, Putney,...


First Solar enters residential market with investment in CEC


First Solar and community solar provider Clean Energy Collective (CEC) have partnered to develop and market community solar to residential customers and businesses on behalf of client utilities. Through the agreement, the terms of which were not disclosed, the companies will offer communities an affordable alternative to rooftop generation.

"Community solar is affecting a major shift in the broader solar industry. This collaboration will allow us to accelerate our expansion to new markets and customers," said Paul Spencer, Founder and CEO of Clean Energy Collective.

As part of the deal, First Solar made a strategic investment in CEC and obtained an equity interest, and First Solar's CEO, Jim Hughes, and vice president of strategic marketing Marc van Gerven will join the CEC board. 


Takara Leben developing 15MW thin-film PV plant in Japan


Takara Leben,Hitachi Zosen and Solar Frontier have begun construction on a 15 MW thin-film PV power plant located on a former golf course belonging to Japanese real estate developer Takara Leben. Hitachi Zosen is providing EPC services for the project, while Solar Frontier is supplying its CIS thin-film modules, chosen to deliver a higher tolerance to partial shading and heat impact.

Located in Nakagawa, Tochigi Prefecture, the project marks the first time that string inverters have been used on a mega solar plant in Japan, rather than the traditional central inverter model. This approach is expected to lower the project’s initial investment cost as well as operating expenses. Takara Leben has eight operating solar power stations in Japan with a combined capacity of 10 MW and aims to expand the capacity to 100 MW.


TU Delft student sets tandem thin-film silicon efficiency record


PhD-student Hairen Tan from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands has demonstrated a new world record initial efficiency of 14.8% of a tandem thin-film silicon solar cell. The efficiency improvement is a result of an interplay among three areas that improve the performance.

In the first area, which deals with a better energy utilization of the solar spectrum, Tan applied a tandem solar cell structure, where two solar cells with different absorber materials are stacked on top of each other. The two absorbers, amorphous silicon and nanocrystalline silicon, capture different regions of the solar spectrum in a way that achieves a higher energy utilization of the solar spectrum.


The second area involves light trapping techniques. Tan designed a novel surface morphology of a substrate for tandem solar cells in order to scatter and absorb light more efficiently in both solar cells. In this modulated surface texture approach that has been patented by TU Delft, Tan combined micrometer large surface features obtained by etching a glass substrate with nano-scale features of a transparent electrode deposited on the etched glass.

The third area covers materials and interface processing. Hairen Tan succeeded in processing amorphous and nanocrystalline silicon absorbers with exceptional electronic quality, and cooperated with the EPFL PV Laboratory in Switzerland to apply their highly transparent electrodes to minimize optical losses outside the absorbers.

The result of all the improvements is a world record efficiency of tandem thin-film silicon solar cells of 14.8%, for which Tan received a Young Researcher Award at the 6th World Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion held recently in Kyoto. The PhD student expects that in the future, a stabilized conversion efficiency of 15% will be demonstrated.


Hanergy to build 300MW thin-film solar factory


Hanergy Holding Group plans to construct a factory in Changde, Hunan province, to manufacture 300 MW of Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) solar panels a year. The production facility is expected to be completed by June 2016. The announcement comes after Hanergy’s acquisitions of Global Solar Energy Inc., Miasole Inc., Alta Devices, and the Solibro unit of Germany’s Q-Cells.


Orbotech receives $15mn order for PV deposition systems


Orbotech’s California-based subsidiary Orbotech LT Solar has received purchase orders for its thin film solar PV deposition systems totalling around USD 15 million in value from one of its existing customers, a leading solar panel manufacturer. The systems are expected to be delivered during the first half of 2015.

OLT Solar had sold its thin film deposition systems to this customer last year to qualify them for future orders. The customer's satisfaction led to the selection of OLT Solar to provide multiple systems for its new facility, scheduled to begin operations in 2015.