Intersolar 2009 report

Paula Mints

Held in Munich from 27 May through 29 May, the Annual Intersolar tradeshow at 100,000 square metres and over 1400 exhibitors remains the standard for tradeshows in the global solar industry.

Despite the downturn, this year's Intersolar conference and expo had an increase in exhibition space and exhibitors, with quite a few companies taking larger booth space. Exhibition halls at the New Munich Trade Fair Centre were strategically arranged with each hall focused on a specific technology.

Visitors could find solar thermal exhibits in halls B1 and B2, photovoltaic system components in halls B2, B3 and B4, mounting and tracking systems in hall B5, products and services in hall B6, PV cells and modules in halls A1 and A2, and PV manufacturing equipment in hall A3. The exhibition hall design made doing business at the show easy to plan, with only the distance from hall B1 to hall A3 providing an obstacle.

Conference highlights – PV industry forum

The tradeshow's satellite conferences, PV Industry Forum, European Solar Thermal Energy Conference (estec2009) and Solar Gigawatts for North America held before and during the tradeshow, added a strong informational component to the venue.

The fifth annual PV Industry forum, held before the tradeshow, has grown from a half day overview of industry activities to a full two days where industry experts offer insight into manufacturing and business concerns currently facing the industry.

Anton Milner, CEO of Q-Cells, spoke about the EU's aggressive goal of 12% of energy from renewables by 2010, along with the EU 20/20/20 by 2020–20% reduction in emissions (below 1990 levels), 20% of energy from renewables, and 20% increase in energy efficiency technologies and practice.

Milner defined grid parity as a point of cross over where solar electricity is equal to other energy choices in the price to the consumer. He also noted that grid parity differs based on consumer type, region, country, and US state and, most importantly, it is not enough.

After several years of reading and hearing the term grid parity used in a marketing fashion, to denote unlimited demand, it is refreshing to hear an industry leader offer a pragmatic definition of it. Q-Cells manufactured its first cell in 2001, and has expanded its investment and technology portfolio to include several thin film technology start up ventures.

Meanwhile, Dr. Karl Stegemann, vice president of technology for Signet Solar offered an overview of activities at the company. In October 2008, Applied Solar certified the start up of commercial production at Signet. The company is currently producing single junction amorphous silicon product (a-Si) in three sizes, quarter size, (95-watt modules), half size (180-watt modules), and its full size 5.72 square metre 358-watt modules. LID (light induced degradation) for the half and full size modules is 17.7%. The large modules require specific large equipment (cranes) to install. The company passed TUV for its 5.72 square metre panels in May of 2009. The company's a-Si product has 6.1% stable efficiency.

Dr. Stegemann said that Signet's first SunFab line is now in full production, with an average line yield of 82%. Dr. Stegemann noted that the line is missing inline control monitoring. Regarding manufacturing yield, glass breakage is the most significant issue.

An update from SulfurCell included information about the company's pilot scale production. In 2008, pilot scale production was 1.8-MWp, increasing by 39% to 2.5-MWp in 2009. Pilot scale conversion efficiency is 7.7% (with a goal of 10% in 2010). Noting that cycle time is a bottleneck for CIS/CIGS, SulfurCell's cycle time was 75 minutes in 2005, 10 minutes in 2007 and at 5 minutes in 2008. The low automation process has an 80% yield. SulfurCell produces framed and frame-less modules and is focused on the BIPV application.

Dr. Florian Holzapfel, CTO, Q-Cells, offered an update on the company's thin film start up, along with its other ventures. Sovello is the company's wafer-technology investment. Other investments include Sontor, micromorph technology - now a 50/50 joint venture with Sunfilm that will be renamed Sunfilm, Calyxco, a CdTe technology startup in which Q-Cells has 93% ownership, Solibro, a CIGS startup in which Q-Cells has 67.5% ownership, Flexcell, a-Si on foil, in which Q-Cells has 58.1% ownership and Solaria, a company developing low concentration technology. Suntech has acquired Q-Cells' interest in CSG Solar. Currently, Solibro has 30-MWp of capacity (ramping to 105-MWp by the end of 2009), Sontor/Sunfilm has 25-MWp of capacity, Calxco has restarted its 25-MWp pilot line, and Flexcell is currently ramping its pilot scale production. Solaria is ramping up test production and is currently viewed by Q-Cells as a strategic partner in that in the future it will take unused capacity.

According to Dr. Holzapfel, the startups are funded for a specific period of time, so, as long as the companies do not run out of money, they are funded. Dr. Holzapfel said that all the current ventures have funding for about one year, and during this time an exit or stay decision will be reached.

Dr. Steffen Schuler, head of technology for Global Solar Energy Germany, spoke about the company's progress with its flexible CIGS technology. Founded in 1996, the company is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona.

The total capacity for the company's manufacturing in its Tucson/Berlin locations is 75-MWp, with ramp up to 175-MWp in 2010. The company's main technology is flexible CIGS strings, which are 18 cells long. The cells are 210 mm × 100 mm. Dr. Schuler noted that advanced evaporation process control is key for large area homogeneity. Global Solar's TCO deposition is sputtering and co-evaporation with short cycle times. Global Solar has a long-term supply contract with Solon.

Dr. Subhendu Guha, Uni-Solar, presented a paper about Advances in Flexible Thin Film Silicon Technology.

Dr. Guha began by offering some company history. The company had 2-MWp of capacity in 1991, 5-MWp in 1996, its first BIPV product in 1997, and 180-MWp of capacity currently. Uni-Solar has been a pioneer in developing products for the BIPV application. Uni-Solar has strong relationships with its channel partners. The company is currently working on improving throughput and its conversion efficiency, and is developing an innovative back reflector. The company installed a 12-MWp roof system in Zaragoza, Spain.

NB: This excerpt is taken from Navigant Consulting's Solar Outlook, SO 2009, 3, authored by Paula Mints.

About the author

Paula Mints is the principal analyst for Navigant's PV Service Market Research Program, executive editor of the Solar Outlook Newsletter, and associate director of the Energy Division.

The PV Services Department at Navigant Consulting was founded in 1974 at Strategies Unlimited, and Ms Mints moved it to Navigant in 2005. The practice is based on classic market research principles, that is, all data are primary, not secondary, and the analysis is independent and not based on the work of others.


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