While the U.S. investment community is all stirred up by the photovoltaic solar thin films said to be coming to market, a design out of South Africa by Vivian Alberts working at the University of Johannesburg is “in the box” now in Europe. The solar panel competition is heating up.

Finished CIGSSe Solar Panel

The CIGSSe panels are reputed to be at 16% efficient which puts the onus on the U.S. firm NanoSolar for more data on the efficiency per dollar. NanoSolar claims a low low price down in the one dollar per watt zone, which opens up the competition on the installed cost. So we push the onus right back to Europe for the costs per watt of the CIGSSe design. No answer yet.

But a finance group that’s involved is letting slip some details from their due diligence. The Fraunhofer Institut Solare Energiesysteme confirmed the technology clearly takes the lead among thin film modules.

The build uses a film constructed with copper, indium, gallium sulfide and selenium that makes up a semiconductor layer on a glass plate. First a molybdenum layer is applied for the electrical contact, then precursor layers of the copper, indium and gallium is applied. Then a diffusion process in a gas atmosphere containing the sulfur and selenium forms a crystalline coat, the absorber layer. To get a serial electrical connection layout the cells are built out in modules of individual structures making a pinstripe look. They are said to work across a wide spectrum of light, including low light and at very high air temperatures.

CIGSSe Solar Panel Layout

The deal looks pretty well closed up now with Aleo Solar AG committed to taking 80% of Johanna Solar Technologies GmbH’s production. That only leaves 20% of the first factory’s production available for other distributors. Nice for the investors, real nice. The license terms reports that have been circulating suggest that other licensees can obtain licenses as the reports offer that South African plants could be built there too.

In the U.S. the past year has seen numerous new research claims for solar panel efficiencies with one comment from a leading reviewer to researchers to “tone it down” on the claims.

Things are moving fast. The coming year should see more hard data on just what the various designs might be able to produce per square meter. That improvement, plus the information from the South African innovation built by German manufacturing reported to be 16% sets a clear marker for competition for your roof investment. NanoSolar’s dollar a watt claim measured by the efficiency and computed out after investing in the installation and the gear to transform the electricity into household current or back on the grid will tell us what the first generation of this technology will really cost or pay back.

At this writing, I’m chock full or salesmanship and marketing. I’m ready for the hard numbers. NanoSolar is supposed to be shipping and the JST plant in Brandenburg Germany is running. So, Lets See!


3 Comments so far

  1. Checking the Facts on Competition of the Shipping CIGSSe Solar Panels | Marketing on January 28, 2008 6:39 AM

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  2. G on July 29, 2008 1:42 PM

    It’d be nice to see some more technical information reported, rather than claims and sales hyperbole. 16% efficiency is a pretty high benchmark for thin films CIGSSe, it makes me wonder exactly how they determined the #’s as there are many claims, with few standardized explanations as to how these numbers are arrived at or calibrated to remove errors.

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