Dr Milan Rosina, Technology & Market Analyst, Photovoltaics at Yole Développement analyzes the different processes, equipment and materials used in the CIS module manufacturing with focus on manufacturing techniques for CIS absorber layer deposition (coevaporation, sputtering, electrodeposition, nanoparticle ink printing).
Photovoltaic modules became a commodity market and numerous PV products based on various PV technologies are commercially available. Although crystalline silicon PV maintains its leading position, CIS (sometimes designed also as CIGS) thin film PV, based on copper-indiumgallium selenium (sulfur), reveals increased interest due to its unlocked potential for high efficiency and low manufacturing costs. However, much effort is necessary to overcome some barriers related to the complexity of this technology and its manufacturing. The report provides a detailed analysis of different CIS technology approaches and of the CIS position amongst all PV technologies.
“In contrary to crystalline silicon PV, which largely profited from the equipment and know-how developed in silicon microelectronic industry, CIS technology approaches are still very dispersed and based on different materials, cell architectures, module design and manufacturing equipment”, explain Dr Milan Rosina, Technology & Market Analyst, Photovoltaics at Yole Développement. This represents many challenges, but also market opportunity for numerous material and equipment suppliers.
Almost every CIS module manufacturer is using different manufacturing approach, often based on a proprietary equipment or process. It is therefore important to understand the advantages and challenges of these approaches in order to determine the possible market value for various materials (metal foil, precursors, encapsulation, moisture barrier film…) and equipment (sputter tool, annealing furnace, wet bench…). Therefore, numerous technologies are analyzed in our report regarding the technology and its manufacturing issues and also in close connection to the possible applications of resulting products. This helps to understand the real market potential of the final product. In fact, different technologies are more or less adapted for manufacturing of divers products (monolithic rigid modules, rigid modules assembled from cells, flexible modules…), which are suited for various PV applications (rooftop installations, Building-Integrated PV, facades, commercial roofs, large ground-mounted PV power plants…). Special focus is made on the flexible CIS cells: their low-cost manufacturing potential and application demand.
The key process step in the CIS cell/module manufacturing is the deposition of CIS absorber layer. The CIS absorber deposition tool and process is also the main differentiation factor between CIS manufacturers. Although some novel approaches based on non-vacuum process, promising lower manufacturing costs, have been introduced in industrial production (nanoparticle ink-printing, electrodeposition), well established processes still rely on vacuum deposition (coevaporation, sputtering). One of the main barriers in CIS technology development is the lack of adapted equipment and
This is related to the relatively short experience of equipment manufacturers with CIS technology. Many proprietary approaches developed by CIS manufacturers are too complex to be costcompetitive and companies using them are struggling with low manufacturing yields, high manufacturing costs and low module efficiencies. This opens opportunity for equipment suppliers with strong CIS background, which can supply both equipment and working process. The report analyses and compares single equipment and turnkey line approaches.
There are big differences between the technological advancement of different CIS manufacturers. About 40 CIS companies are producing modules, but only few of them have reached 10+ MWp/y production and most of them are still struggling with low module efficiency and low manufacturing yield. Most small companies, in the past heavily backed in by Venture Capital funds will probably not survive the on-going price pressure in the PV market. Therefore, the main technology players from Europe and USA are partnering with Asian investors in order to finance the manufacturing capacity increase and further product development. The companies investing in CIS are reviewed in our report and company profiles of CIS manufacturers allow an easy comparison of their technology, products, module efficiency, manufacturing capacity and production volume. A technology and business development comparison of CIS manufacturers, as well as technology development (Cd-free CIS cells, CZTS cells, etc.) and business strategy are also presented.
The Yole Développement’s report also includes:
• Deep analysis of different CIS technologies and market approaches considering both manufacturing technologies and possible applications of CIS modules.
• Market metrics 2011-2017 for CIS technology (in MWp and M$).
• Company profiles of 23 CIS manufacturers, analysis and comparison of technology and
business development of different PV manufacturers.