CIGS (copper indium gallium di-selenide) thin film technology has long held a promise of higher efficiency potential than that of CdTe (cadmium telluride) technology, particularly from CIGS-company rival, and now market leader, First Solar. This is a direct consequence of the higher band gap inherent in the physics of CIGS technology. Unfortunately, manufacturing of CIGS modules has proven to be much more difficult than manufacturing CdTe modules. Pike Research analysis has shown that this has resulted primarily from the deposition process of the four CIGS elements which has much more difficulty in maintaining uniformity while simultaneously attaining process speeds that produce a module every 150 seconds (as is the case with CdTe processing from First Solar).
Even more of a challenge, First Solar currently manages to reach 11.1% efficiency for modules that cost $0.81/W now and $0.75 by the end of the year.
We are not surprised, then, that leading CIGS module makes such as Nanosolar and Miasole have struggled to gain traction and sales revenues against such heady competition.
However, CIGS technology may have found a market niche in which it will succeed. With 10.5-10.7% efficiency, CIGS panels from Global Solar, Ascent Solar, and recent entrant SoloPower should take BIPV/BAPV market share in the next few years; largely from UniSolar unless they are able to substantially improve the 6.7% efficiency of its a-Si flex panels. CIGS flex panels’ better aesthetics could also win market share from c-Si modules as well. Manufactured on flexible substrates, these panels are likely to fetch reasonable gross margins as ASPs in this market segment exceed $2.10 today and could reasonably remain at about $1.50 through 2012. Furthermore, CIGS flex panels blend into rooflines and other building structures and offer solid colors that, in combination, provide the aesthetics demanded by many BIPV/BAPV applications.
Even more exciting is the potential of Dow Solar Solutions’ Powerhouse tiles. Dow’s tiles are comprised of CIGS flex panels from Global that are laminated between proprietary polymer sheets and then formed into tiles that blend well with standard asphalt tiles. And, they promise easy installation by simultaneously connecting mechanically and electrically.
Given the competitive advantages outlined above, Pike Research analysis suggests that CIGS could reasonably take BIPV/BAPV market share and reach nearly 600 MW of new installations by 2014.