Price war between thin film & crystalline solar PV technology

PI_0903_Paper-thin_SC_ISE_IPTC03eIntroduction of thin film technology let to a price war between the thin film & crystalline technology and we observe module prices as low as 0.5$/W from some of the Chinese players. CIGS and CDTE are two major thin film technologies which have been successful to penetrate in the Indian market although the thin film technology was adopted during NVVN Projects as import of PV module was not allowed, in case the PV module are from crystalline technology. This motivated many developers to adopt thin film PV technology and companies like first solar and solar frontier were successful in taking major stake in NVVN projects. Globally thin film contribute in about 15% market share however during NVVN projects thin film contributes to about 70% market share of which majority of supply is from first solar. In fact the projects which use thin film modules have shown relatively higher performance ratio (PR) as compare to difficult crystalline solar plant.

Cumulative CUF(%) of PV Power Plant


Grap PIgraph2

                                                                                                                              Irrespective of the higher generation and good market demand availability of thin film from reputed module supplier was limited. The limited availability of module supplies companies like solar frontier kept there prizes relatively higher as compared to their competitors from typical crystalline market. thin film technologies are typically known for their low module efficiency, however in recent years the efficiency of thin film module have increased considerably, for e.g. solar frontier module have reached to module efficiency about 14.6%. Similarly first solar module efficiency has reached to about 13.1%. While thin film technology are growing at a rapid pace some of the players could not maintain the price war and files bankruptcy  for e.g. recently Solyndra, Soltecture and AQT has filed bankruptcy. It is expected that increase efficiency, higher reliability and better temperature coefficient will lead to a larger market share of thin film technology in future.


c-Si PV Module Pricing Differentials                          Thin film PV Module Pricing Differentials


Although the production cost of thin film modules is lower as compare to crystalline module. But higher capital cost requirements of manufacturing setup makes thin film technology still costlier as compare to crystalline technology. We believe that there is still potential for cost reduction in thin film technologies. Recently first solar has announce that there modules will be available at a price of .4 dollar per watt by 2016. In short term the prospects of thin film technologies looks better as there is no further room for decline in prices of poly silicon.




The lower temperature coefficient of thin film modules give a higher energy yield in hot climates like India. In case of thin film manufacturing takes 1/3 as many steps as conventional poly silicon technology and uses 60% less energy and module production there is a possibilities for thin film players to reduce cost further by adopting cheaper deposition methods. The efficiency of PV module with CIGS technology also increase due to “light shocking effect”-by which thin film module generate higher output then factory specification after a period of exposer to sun light. Recent thin installation experience in India show that the energy yields is about 6-8% higher as compared to crystalline silicon projects of the same size. Thin film manufacturers are coming up with flexible substrate(polyamide) rather than typical glass substrate which makes thin film modules light weight and easier to use as a part of various BIPV(Building integrated photo voltaic) It is likely that flexible thin film module in future will be much cheaper as compare to typical glass substrate PV modules.

Article By,

Dr Sanjay Vashishtha & Kapil Dev Sharma


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