"Foto aére de solnovas y torre junio 2010" by Abengoa Solar / CC BY 1.0

Why Nobody In Renewable Energy Had A Better 2018 Than First Solar

Dec 31, 2018

By John Parnell

In mid-2017 Arizona’s First Solar was set up for a tricky 2018. It was overhauling its manufacturing facilities, juggling inventory, wary of the impact of Trump’s planned trade duties on all imports of solar panels and facing even stiffer competition from China.

As the months rolled on and 2018 arrived, things seemed to get better and better for the firm.

As opposed to the overwhelming majority of its competition, First Solar’s panels are based not on silicon but on thin-film technology. Historically its products have been about one third the size of standard silicon modules. That meant the forest of racking to suspend them on needed to be tailored and the labor involved in clamping and connecting them in position was greater.

The shift to a larger format module was revealed in April 2016 and the first working panel rolled off the production line in Malaysia in December 2017. Fast-forward one year and the first substantial project using the new Series 6 modules in under construction. The company was able to continue finding a market for the smaller Series 4 products and it is theoretically sold out of Series 6, even as it continues to add new production lines.

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2 comments on “Why Nobody In Renewable Energy Had A Better 2018 Than First Solar

  • I’m conflicted on this. Thin film technologies have got as good and better than crystalline Silicon, the major technology on roofs and farms. Of the three thin film technologies two lead the pack and one is First Solar’s Cadmium Telluride (CdTe)and currently has commercial dominance over the second Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS).

    The problem is Cadmium is an increasingly banned substance and Telurium is platinum-scarce. It is telling that on First Solar’s website neither material is named except in two little documents where the symbol Cd is left on a graph axis and tag. Cadmium Telluride is a safe material except potentially during Cadmium extraction and manufacture. There will be enough Tellurium if panels are scrupulous recycled and all new installations should even now build in a cost and obligation for this. So far this is not the case. Manufacture of the panels is now exclusively offshore. It seems to me CdTe is winning by avoidance of some long term costs

    The Fraunhofer Institute had a study showing 5% market penetration as a flat topping peak for CdTe. CIGS, by contrast would sail past and up. The Institute does itself develop CIGS so this doesn’t have quite the reliable authority that one normally associates with the Fraunhofer Institute.

     

    Personally I would prefer to see CIGS succeed as the thin film technology of choice, with lower or less pressing hidden costs. Solar shingles and other building products may yet be a key application given the shape-able nature of thin film technologies.

    I am most impatient over the development of multijunction InGaN for use in solar concentrator applications combining steam production/desalination. Products using multi bandgaps on a single chip are now available in LED lighting. For all that, there is such momentum elsewhere, that it will be decades yet before this potential (70% conversion plus steam) is properly engaged.

     

     

     
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  • Jan 3, 2019 at 4:24 am
    1
    phil rimmer says:

    I’m conflicted on this. Thin film technologies have got as good and better than crystalline Silicon, the major technology on roofs and farms. Of the three thin film technologies two lead the pack and one is First Solar’s Cadmium Telluride (CdTe)and currently has commercial dominance over the second Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS).

    The problem is Cadmium is an increasingly banned substance and Telurium is platinum-scarce. It is telling that on First Solar’s website neither material is named except in two little documents where the symbol Cd is left on a graph axis and tag.

    Perhaps a new source of supply, is what is required!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_mining

    Minerals can be mined from an asteroid or spent comet, then used in space for construction materials or taken back to Earth.

    These include gold, iridium, silver, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhenium, rhodium, ruthenium and tungsten for transport back to Earth; iron, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, aluminium, and titanium for construction.

     

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