AMAT, Oerlikon roll out PV manufacturing products

September 4, 2007 – With Applied Materials and Oerlikon Solar rolling out new technologies targeting manufacturing of thin-film solar modules, one analyst handicaps the PV manufacturing field, concluding that AMAT has a leg up on the competition.

Applied says its SunFab Thin Film line for ultralarge 5.7 sq. m substrates can produce enough solar modules in a year to generate 75MW of power, and reduce cost of utility-scale and building-integrated photovoltaic system installations by >20%. The system incorporates Applied’s adapted CVD and PVD process systems (including PECVD) and is configurable with single or tandem junction technology

Citing market buzz at a recent European PV conference, FBR Research thinks that “despite a few glitches with customers’ ramp/facility construction,” AMAT will start to see thin-film solar-related orders as soon as the April quarter, with likely sales of $474 million in CY08 well above FBR’s initial estimates.

“Although there is some chatter regarding some pushouts in equipment delivery, we believe that such pushouts have only been limited to minor equipment and are typical of an industry at the infancy stage,” writes Mehdi Hosseini, FBR senior VP.

Hosseini notes that while the crystalline segment is crowded, but the herd is much thinner in the thin-film segment. Top competition in this area includes First Solar (“only in terms of the type of (thin film) technology/architecture”), as well as Oerlikon and EnergoSolar, which are offering double juncture technology. Still, he says, those two rivals only have 1-2 customers, and “neither can manufacture modules as big as AMAT’s” — plus they are “lagging in scale and brand name,” he notes.

Meanwhile, Oerlikon Solar is debuting its micromorph tandem technology, which combines amorph and microcrystalline silicon in a top and a bottom cell — the amorphous top cell converts the visible part of the sun’s spectrum, while the microcrystalline bottom cell absorbs in the near infrared spectrum — to boost efficiency by ~50% vs. traditional amorphous single cells, the company claims. It also “has the potential for efficiencies of over 10% and leads to a further reduction of the cost per watt peak,” added Uwe Krueger, CEO of Oerlikon, in a statement.

“Thin-film production lines for micromorph solar modules are becoming more prevalent in the industry as companies search for environmentally responsible and economically sound options for manufacturing,” Krueger stated.


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