Thin-Film Industry Forum concludes successfully
Thin-Film Photovoltaics: Companies must make use of the market’s evolution
“Set against the background of First Solar’s exit from Germany, the solar industry has again reached a turning point.” With these words Karl-Heinz Remmers, chairman of the organizers Solarpraxis AG, opened the Thin-Film Industry Forum last week. The event, which took place on 19 and 20 April, 2012 in Berlin Aldershof, was organized as part of the 4th Photovoltaics Thin-Film Week, the largest thin-film PV conference worldwide. Hope, however, comes from the prospect of new markets, which will arise from dropping module prices and other factors, continued Remmers.
That the European market will contract and other markets – in Asia in particular, but also in the USA – will gain in importance was a recurring theme in the event. The key issue for companies is how to make use of this evolution for their future. Price expectations for crystalline solar modules in 2020 are lying at around 60–80 dollar cents per watt, while forecasts for thin-film photovoltaic lie at around 30 70 dollar cents per watt. The bases for these forecasts were in both cases "healthy" prices, where every part of the value chain receives the earnings it is due.
Chinese manufacturers are massively driving down the prices in the thin-film PV sector too, progressively diminishing the price differential between crystalline and thin-film PV modules. In this respect, there is currently a lot of activity in the thin-film solar sector.
In the face of a rapidly changing policy environment it is becoming increasingly difficult, costly and time-consuming to secure finance in the established (European) markets. Many banks will only release funds once PV systems are complete and corresponding feed-in tariffs have been confirmed. In this way they avoid carrying any risk should regulatory changes disrupt the cash flow. For the growing markets in Eastern Europe, North Africa and Central and South America, a large part of the finance for PV projects must be secured from local banks, which currently have little experience in the financing of solar projects. If there is to be growth in the number of thin-film PV manufacturers, issues of financing could, for the reasons given, become a critical barrier.
Stakeholders in the thin-film PV market, who have neglected its technological development in favour of marketing, were advised to reinvest as quickly as possible in the further development of its products, so as to remain successful in the long term. It was suggested that the growing markets of South Asia, the Middle East and South America, in which crystalline PV is not yet established, would be the best suited for the introduction of thin-film photovoltaics. These markets might quadruple in size in the next few years.
The second day of the conference saw discussion about further steps to make thin-film photovoltaics competitive. In this context the EU Electrical and Electronic Equipment Waste Directive (WEEE) was explained, which will also apply to solar systems in the future. The audience was advised to be well prepared, since meeting the provisions of its forthcoming enactment in 2014 will be challenging and complex. Although recycling processes are already available for all technologies, the required technical development is still in its infancy in some areas.
In the final discussionit was noted that despite all the bad news, there was reason to be proud of the developments of recent years. "A lot has been achieved." A further point of discussion concerned integration of thin-film PV into buildings. Great potential is seen here, even if the market is currently still small.
Almost 200 international participants took part in the Thin-Film Industry Forum 2012. The next Solarpraxis event will take place in Berlin on 30 and 31 May, 2012 in Berlin. Further information about the workshops on the topic of amendments to the EEG legislation (in German language) can be found under http://www.solarpraxis.de/konferenzen/neuerungen-zur-eeg-novelle/allgemeine-informationen/.
Image material that can be freely used can be downloaded from ftp://ftp351948:AZEQUbutyMudYTYZ@ftp.solarpraxis.de.
Judith Hübner, phone: +49 (0)30 / 72 62 96-327, email: judith.huebner(at)solarpraxis.de