SEMI, USA recently hosted the seminar on ‘Convergence of PV Materials, Test and Reliability: What Really Matters?
Reliability in growing PV industry
Speaking on the importance of reliability to a growing PV industry, Sarah Kurtz, principal scientist, Reliability group manager, NREL, said that confidence in long-term performance is a necessity in the PV industry. Current failure rates are low. There is need to demonstrate confidence so that failure rates will stay low. There has been exponential growth of the PV industry so far. PV is a significant fraction of new installations. It now represents a significant fraction of new electricity generating installations of all kinds.
How does one predict the lifetime of PV modules? There has been a qualification test evolution for JPL block buys. Most studies of c-Si modules show module failures are small. Internal electrical current issues often dominate.
The vast majority of installations show very low PV module failure rates (often less than 0.1 percent). There has been evidence that PV is low risk compared to other investments. To sustain the current installation rate, we need to demonstrate confidence that justifies the annual investment of $100 million or so.
Critical factors in economic viability of PV
DuPont has broad capabilities under one roof. It offers materials, solar cell design, and processes integrated with panel engineering. Speaking about Critical factors in economic viability of PV – materials matter – Conrad Burke, global marketing director, DuPont PV Solutions, said that material suppliers have a distinct advantage to view trends. The industry can expect consolidation among large PV module producers and large materials suppliers.
There is an increasing dependence on materials suppliers for processes, tech support and roadmap. There is renewed attention to long-term reliability and quality of materials in PV products.
There is a race for survival among panel producers. There are dropping prices for solar panels, and quality is getting compromised. There are reduced incentives in established markets. The market will continue to grow. Key factors that determine investment return for PV include lifetime, efficiency and cost.
When materials fail, the consequences are dire. There are failures such as encapsulant discoloration, backsheet failure, glass delamination, etc. Average defect rates in new-build modules has been increasing. Significant number of PV installations do not deliver the projected RoI. The system lifetime is as important as cost and incentives.
Solar cell power continues to improve. There have been improvements from metal pastes and processes. Performance loss impacts the RoI. The US Department of Energy hired JPL to develop 30-year PV modules. Recent cost pressures have led to the dramatic changes in module materials and a lack of transparency.
Analyzing modules from the recent service environments show performance issues. Certification does not mitigate risk. Tests do not predict the actual field performance. He showed tier-1 solar panel manufacturing problems from China, Japan and the USA. Backsheet is critical to protect solar panels. Few materials have lengthy field experience. We will continue to see drop in prices for solar panels and opening of new markets. Focus for PV module makers will remain efficiency, etc.
Ms. Fatima Toor, analyst, Lux Research, recently presented on opportunities in turbulent PV equipment market, in association with SEMI, USA.
Global PV market trends
Bankruptcies are galore. Eg. Solyndra, Abound Solar, Konarka, etc. Global trade wars are also on the rise. There are US tariffs on Chinese solar cells. There is also an EU investigation on Chinese solar panels. Then, there are Chinese investigations on US, EU and Korean polysilicon dumping. Government incentives have been lowered in the EU, but raised in Asia and Americas. Following Barack Obama’s re-election in the US, the environmentalists are again upbeat about green energy.
Global PV demand increase will be driven by Asia and Americas in the coming years. Emerging markets will grow over six times in size from 2011-2017. Crystalline Si will be the dominant installed PV technology, at least till 2017. Gap between demand and supply will close.
The Q3-12 geographical capacity distribution would be across PV value chain. China leads in polysilicon, cells and modules supply. Chinese equipment manufacturers market share has been on the rise, ramping up competition for Western equipment suppliers.
Lux Research sampled 493 PV manufacturers. Of these, 40 percent are based in the EU, 28 percent are based in China, 17 percent are in the US and 15 percent are in the Rest of the World.
Opportunities for equipment manufacturers in current market state
Cost, efficiency and price are fundamental drivers of PV industry. Innovations across the value chain will enable higher margins for PV industry. The desire for cell and module manufacturers to reduce costs and differentiate will drive opportunities for equipment manufacturers.
Crystalline Si technology: Innovations across crystalline Si value chain would enable opportunities for equipment suppliers. Fluidized bed reactor (FBR) process requires 10 lWh/kg and is a continuous process. Why is FBR only 6 percent of total polysilicon capacity today? The reasons are:
* No off-the-shelf FBR reactors are available.
* Process complexity requires that Si granules can be polluted by impurities.
* There is an opportunity for equipment manufacturers to develop off-the-shelf FBR equipment that will enable reduced production costs for polysilicon.
* GCL announced developing its FBR technology.
* Samsung Fine Chemicals and MEMC have partnered to set up FBR polysilicon production due to its lower production costs.
Monocrystalline silicon (c-Si) ingot growth using Czochralski (CZ) method is high cost and results in pseudo-square c-Si wafers. Plate seed for qc-Si ingot growth with mc-Si grains on the edges and c-Si in the middle. ReneSola has technology with wafer capacity of 2GW of which 1.6GW is qc-Si Virtus wafers and 0.4GW are c-Si wafers. ReneSola is likely to be one of the Chinese companies to survive the shakeout due to its strategy and technology.
Opportunities exist to optimize qc-Si ingot growth. Modified directional solidification (DS) furnace makers claim 90 percent c-Si and 10 percent mc-Si yields during qc-Si ingot growth. In reality, 60 percent c-Si and 40 percent mc-Si results in high wafer binning and sorting costs. This provides an opp for equipment manufacturers to improve the c-Si yield to higher than 90 percent. The Qc-Si capacity is likely to increase in the coming years as DS furnace manufacturers innovate.
TSMC unveiled its schedule for 450mm mass production at the recently held SEMICON Taiwan 2012 450mm Supply Chain Forum. Focusing on lithography as the key, Dr. C.S. Yoo, senior director of the 450mm program at TSMC, noted that IC makers and equipment suppliers should fully leverage the G450C. They need to work and innovate to make the 450mm transition a great success.
TSMC has always been in the relentless pursuit of technology innovation. It has been part of all of the computing waves that have driven the market growth. Right now, mobile computing is the leading market driver. TSMC has been helping the industry produce comprehensive, powerful mobile computing devices.
The future growth drivers and trends include mobile computing, cloud computing and smart devices. However, technical and economic challenges also lie ahead. TSMC has been pushing the lithography roadmap. 28nm is said to be the limit of conventional single-patterning lithography. TSMC has innovations to extend immersion to 20nm. The next-generation lithography (NGL) is being preferred beyond 20nm. Also, EUV and multiple-e-beam concept and feasibility has been proven. The more than 10x throughput gap requires collaborative innovation and funding.
TSMC continues to invest in R&D for transistor architecture trends. There is increasing technology complexity, as reflected by mask layers increase. The technology shrink also leads to design complexity.
There are challenges such as intrinsic wafer cost parity and uncertain technology migration ROI. TSMC’s mission is to be the trusted technology and capacity provider for the global logic IC industry for years to come. TSMC already has capacity leadership. TSMC’s total 12″ cleanroom space will equal more than 32 World Cup football fields by the end of this year..
TSMC customers’ expectations include the offer of leading-edge technology, continue to expand capacity, enable faster time to market, faster technology ramp up, faster manufacturing cycle times, and lower cost /die. To bridge the cost and productivity gap, TSMC no longer maintains cost/transistor trend by 2018 due to the slowing pace of technology shrink, and increasing technology complexity.
There are three phases of PV industry development, including formation, regional development and globalization, according to Bettina Weiss, VP, Global PV Business Unit, SEMI, USA. She was delivering the opening keynote at the ongoing Solarcon India 2012 event in Bangalore, India. The event runs till September 5.
According to her, in the first stage, discoveries lead to inventions. Inventions find niche and high-value applications. Technology, and not manufacturing is the key driver here. For regional development, new industries seen as source for economic development. Markets develop through government subsidies. Global supply chains and regional clusters of excellence develop as well.
State of global PV industry
The government policy support for PV has been strong till 2011. However, it may fall of during 2012-16. The supply-demand balance was generally stable till 2011, which could likely see structural overcapacity in 2012-16. The demand, which has been over 70 per cent till 2011, will likely see -20 per cent growth from 2012-16.
While there were many ‘saviour’ markets, such as Spain (2008), Italy (2010) and Germany (2009-11), Europe may prove to be not enough to absorb excess capacity in 2012-16. Poly, scale and the learning curve had been competitive till 2011, and are likely to give way to non-poly costs, technology and efficiency during 2015-16. While the gross margin was consistently above 20 per cent till now, the path to profitability remains unclear for the period 2012-16.
As for the cell and module makers performance, sharp price declines since 2011 have stimulated record installations globally. The effect on PV manufacturers have been severe. The entire supply chain has been plagued with collapsing margins.
Revenue to shipment ratio declined for five consecutive quarter since Q1 ’11. The list of insolvencies keeps growing. The outlook for 2012 is that volume/shipment upside is likely, but the path to profitability is still unclear.
Then, there is the ongoing solar trade war!
The US Department of Commerce (DOC) levied anti-dumping tariffs against Chinese solar module imports, with tariffs ranging from 31 per cent to 250 per cent. In response to the US tariffs, China’s Ministry of Commerce, on July 21, 2012, announced that it will start its own AD and CVD investigation on imported solar-grade polysilicon from US, and is initiating an AD investigation on these imports from South Korea. The EU Commission will decide by mid-September whether to accept a similar complaint and launch an investigation.
Friends, it has been extremely difficult for me to stay away from my blog! ;) Not to speak of the thousands of requests! ;)
Well, I’ve been chatting up with Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons, lately, on the 450mm fab! In fact, at the IFS2012-MT mid-term semiconductor industry forecast seminar, he proclaimed that 450mm presented a unique opportunity for Europe!
First, 450mm will allow Europe’s indigenous chip firms to catch up their lost leadership position in advanced CMOS manufacturing, and place them at the forefront of technology in ‘More Moore’ (MM) and ‘More Than Moore’ (MtM). Embracing 450mm will ensure a clear migration path for all future silicon-based chip processing into the foreseeable future. Should Europe’s indigenous chip firms choose to ignore the 450mm paradigm shift, focusing instead on just MtM, and not MM, they will end up in a technology dead end!
Europe’s MtM expertise will get slowly cannibalised by more advanced technology-based firms looking to re-use their depreciated (n-1) MM platforms and shrinking remaining markets squeezed by ever-increasing over-crowding amongst their similar technology peers. Embracing MtM without MM will undermine Europe’s long-term KET aspirations and advanced manufacturing needs by 2025. By the way, a 450mm fab is already in TSMC’s roadmap!
The chip industry’s growth is driven by the economy, which is currently weak due to complete loss of confidence, as well as unit demand, fab capacity, which is very tight at the leading technology edge, and ASPs.
At IFS2012 in January, Future Horizons had said that +8 per cent is a safe bet for the global semiconductor industry. The updated outlook for 2012, from Future Horizons, for the global semiconductor industry is +4 per cent! As we all know, the chip fundamentals wait for no man or crisis! The year 2012 has been one of the unresolved Euro crisis. The chip market will likely rebound once business confidence returns!
As SEMI puts it: the key to the implementation of 450mm wafer production will be the ability of key subsystem and component suppliers to support leading tool makers with critical enabling products and technologies vital to 450 pilot lines and high volume production. The role of the the Global 450 Consortium (G450C) will be watched and followed with great interest.
The key question: Should Europe make a move for 450mm fabs? What happens to the existing 300mm fabs? Do let me know your thoughts, friends!
P.S.: By the way, what is the Indian semiconductor industry doing?
Presenting the excerpts from the welcome address by Debasish Paul Choudhury, president, SEMI India, at the ongoing Solarcon India 2011, being held in Hyderabad.
This year’s show features a larger exhibition, a three-day dual track conference, and will feature three concurrent technical programs. The theme for this year’s exposition, representing the widening solar value chain in India, is “Showcasing the Solar Eco‐System: From Polysilicon to Power Plants.”
The exhibition with over 115 exhibitors from eight countries, compared to 81 exhibitors in SOLARCON India 2010, covers the entire solar value chain, will provide you an opportunity to see a wide range of new products and services offered by Indian and international companies, under one roof.
This year’s show, as many of you are aware, is certified by the US Department of Commerce (US DOC), and features an exclusive US Pavilion with 14 leading US companies participating in the exhibition. I am also delighted to welcome a 35-member Clean Tech Delegation led by the USA’s Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, Francisco J. Sanchez to the show.
I am delighted to have in our midst two other distinguished guests – Dr. Bharat Bhargava, director – Photovoltaics, Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India, who is widely credited to be the architect of the India’s National Solar Mission. In the same vein, I am happy to welcome Jim Brown, president, Utility Systems Business Group, First Solar Inc., the world’s largest thin film module manufacturer, with us this morning.
Featuring more than 70 speakers drawn from the industry, academia and government, the conference is themed “Charting India’s Roadmap to Solar Leadership — Translating Potential into Reality.” The conference attracts high-profile participation of solar energy leaders from all segments of the industry supply chain, academia and governments from India and around the world.
The three-day conference also includes an LED Lighting summit, co-organized with Frost & Sullivan, which will focus on SSL (solid state lighting) technology with speakers from among LED manufacturers, LED suppliers, researchers and others.
The climate in which we are holding the show this year has not been without its challenges – on two fronts: the events in Hyderabad on the one hand (which have now, we are grateful to all parties involved, returned to complete normalcy) and the considerable stress that the solar industry is under due the slowdown in the European economies, regulatory changes in the major solar markets and manufacturing over capacity resulting in a fall in PV system prices over the last two to three quarters.
This show and the support it has received are proof that the long term prospects for the solar industry remain most bright in India.
SEMI USA had a session on “Identify Growth Opportunities in the PV Materials Market,” which was presented by Mike Corbett, Linx-AEI Consulting, and moderated by Bettina Weiss of the SEMI PV Group.
More, in a short while! ;) Stay tuned!
Solar photovoltaics (PV) constantly reminds me of the early days of the telecom industry. Perhaps, the similarity lies in practically anyone and everyone wants to enter the solar/PV industry as well, just like it happened in telecom — before the industry consolidation started to happen.
In India, a lot more talk has happened since the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM) was unveiled. With 2010 now drawing to an end, here’s presenting the top posts for solar PV from the year that is about to leave all of us!
Want to enter solar off-grid business? Build your own solar LED lanterns and emergency lights! — This was a smashing superhit! So many folks have accessed this post and quite a few commented! Definitely, my no. 1 post for the year and among my top 10 posts for 2010!
India to miss NSM target? No, it’s likely a mistake (in reporting)! – The faux pas of the year! ;)
SEMI India benchmarks India’s NSM on global FIT best practices — Goes on to show why SEMI continues to be a top notch industry association!
RoseStreet Labs develops breakthrough multiband solar cell technology! — I enjoyed writing this post a lot!
Solar PV heats up in India — NVVN signs MoU with 16 developers; new guidelines for solar projects — First clear signs that India is indeed hot, as a solar market.
Bluetooth set as short range wireless standard for smart energy! — This should be interesting, as and when it happens!
There’s more to come in the new year, now that NVVN has released a list of projects under the JN-NSM. I am more keen to see how JN-NSM takes off in the new year, and am sure, so are you!
Here’s wishing everyone a very happy, joyous and prosperous 2011! :)
He said: “The NSM is the change in India. You try to look for simplicity, see what’s going on, and speed. We hope that happens in India.”
Meyers added: “We see SEMI playing the role as a ‘connector’ in markets where technologies are emerging. Two things need to happen in emerging technologies as well as regions. One, there has to be a roadmap — clear and defined. Two, there has to be standards development. SEMI is already playing a key role in the standards for PV manufacturing equipment and materials. It will extend that activity into India as well.
“Our experience in standards in semiconductors has shown that standards results in cost reduction and the net benefit of cost savings is passed on not only to the consumer, but this also allows the savings to be ploughed back into R&D by the industry.”