Thin film PV and batteries is a market reaching $45 billion by 2021

05 September 2011

Market size (in billions of US$) for thin film photovoltaic technologies beyond silicon technologies

A brand new comprehensive report from IDTechEx gives a thorough analysis of printed and thin film photovoltaics and batteries.

It covers companies, research institutes and universities that are active in developing and commercialising thin film technologies for photovoltaics and batteries.

Thin film Photovoltaics represent a market of almost $5 Billion this year and its growth is not predicted to slow down. As detailed in the IDTechEx report ‘Thin Film Photovoltaics and Batteries, 2011-2021’, the overall market for thin film solar cells will be almost $16 billion by 2016, reaching around $45 billion by 2021.

Thin film batteries, which are also covered in the report, represent a smaller market as they are suitable for more specific applications where their thin, flexible form factor is advantageous over coin cells, this market could reach over $1.2 billion by 2021.

Demand for power is skyrocketing as the world's population continues to expand, the developing world rapidly industrialises and more and more everyday devices, systems and structures go digital. Thin film photovoltaics, using inorganic or organic compounds as active layers, represent the most promising technologies for significantly beating the cost of conventional solar mono or polycrystalline silicon electrical systems; both upfront cost (including transport and installation cost) and cost per watt.

Photovoltaic technologies covered in the report include CIGS, CdTe DSSC, a-Si and organic photovoltaics. Materials and devices are covered too, as well as manufacturing techniques, focussing on various high speed printing technologies that can be utilised.

Silicon photocells are seen in many places but the technology is limited. Crystalline silicon will never give tightly rollable devices let alone transparent ones or even low cost power generation on flexible substrates.

Fortunately there are many new alternatives. Proprietary nano-particle silicon printing processes are developed by companies such as Innovalight and Kovio and they promise many of the photovoltaic features that conventional silicon can never achieve. Also, new materials and deposition techniques promise high performance, lightweight flexible solar cells.

Thin Film Photovoltaics and Batteries, 2011-2021

Amorphous silicon technologies also offer a thin film alternative at a lower cost but unfortunately lower efficiency.

First Solar's technology, based on CdTe cells, is the first major success on non-silicon platforms. However, a lot of work on the next generation of PV is directed towards deposition onto low cost flexible substrates and ultimately common packaging materials.

Competing technologies include CIGS, DSSC, Organic PV, and Q-Si. Several companies, universities and research institutes are hard at work in different stages of these technologies with large scale plants built across the globe.

Along with other manufacturing techniques, printing (or printing-like) technologies are gradually being adopted (Nanosolar, G24 Innovations in the PV sector; Power Paper, Solicore and Blue Spark in the batteries sector), as they can be considered to be some of the fastest, least expensive and highest volume manufacturing techniques.

With printed electronics becoming more prevalent, there is an increasing need for power to supply them; printing is amenable to a large number of different types of devices with the possibility of integration (to provide onboard power etc.)

This report provides a comprehensive list of each of the thin film photovoltaic and battery technologies. Compiled and analysed by Dr Harry Zervos, technology analyst with IDTechEx, company profiles are given along with 10-year forecasts for the growth of the market share of these technologies. Dr. Bruce Kahn, consultant and academic, gives a thorough analysis of the science and technology behind thin film photovoltaics and batteries, as well as a comparison of different high-speed printing techniques.

The graph summarises the growth trend forecasted over the next few years, during which, CdTe will remain the dominant technology in the thin film market. Further technology advances and solar cell adoption will lead to further growth for competing technologies also which will lead to stronger competition in later years.


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