Thin Film Photovoltaics

We are very close to learning whether or not what we’ve been waiting for all these years has finally come true: Cheap abundant energy via photovoltaics. What was required was a way to manufacture them for, say, one-tenth the current costs, and from what representatives of several photovoltaic manufacturers are telling us, that day has come.

We’re closely watching two Silicon Valley standouts in this field, Miasole and Nanosolar. According to Martin Wenzel at Miasole, they are within a month or so of starting up a 25 MW photovoltaic manufacturing line. Nanosolar, not far behind, claims they will start up a whopping 430 MW photovoltaic manufacturing line by the end of 2007. For a more complete list of companies producing photovoltaics read “The Photovoltaic Revolution,” posted on 10-20-06.

DayStar Technologies
Photo: DayStar Technologies

Here are two more companies, both well established, who are diving into the breakthrough technology of thin-skin photovoltaics: DayStar Technologies, a public company located in New York with a branch in Silicon Valley. They claim their 3rd generation tools to manufacture thin-skin photovoltaics will be in place and profitably manufacturing by the end of 2008. DayStar already ships thin-skin photovoltaics (pictured above), but they believe sometime in 2008 they will be positioned to produce “gigawatt scale” quantities of PVs.

Another company already shipping thin-skin photovoltaics is Global Solar Energy, located in Tuscon, Arizona. From this sunny place they too are joining the hordes of companies that are poised to bring photovoltaics firmly into the mainstream.

The entire energy consumption of the world in 2005, expressed in electrical terms, was about 16,000 gigawatt-years. The current installed base of photovoltaics in the world contributed a paltry 5 gigawatt-years to that total. The entire manufacturing output of photovoltaics in 2005 was only about 1.5 gigawatts. But thin-skin photovoltaics don’t depend on finite supplies of polysilicon, and they are far less expensive to manufacture.

For these reasons, it may be that projections of how much photovoltaics are going to contribute to global energy supplies are way, way understated. Photovoltaic technology is the most promising alternative energy source we’ve ever seen to quickly usher in the era of clean, cheap, abundant energy.

4 Responses to “Thin Film Photovoltaics”
  1. chris de vuyst says:


    i am trying to follow as good if possible the thin film solar energy market, and i am very pleased with your article for an overview at this time. But may ask why you aren’t telling a thing about xsunx … I believe this company will also be able to become a player!

    thanks for your feed back

  2. Marcus says:

    My big question, as I am not as informed in this field as I would like to be, is what is the out put of these thin filmed PV’s?

    In my country, The Bahamas, the masses are holding on to archaic forms of energy when we have so much sun year round. As an architect its a no brainer and I need information to push the public in that direction.

  3. Ed Ring says:

    Marcus – thin film photovoltaic technology is just starting to take off. At the same time, the traditional crystaline photovoltaic manufacturing is starting to really increase because the supply of raw polysilicon is finally increasing. It isn’t clear which technology will dominate. Crystaline photovoltaic is, generally speaking, somewhat more expensive, but reputed to be longer lasting and higher output. You can get anywhere between 10-25 watts per square foot of PV using crystaline. With thin film, yields are lower, maybe 5-15 watts per square foot. But thin film is a catch-all term to describe many manufacturing processes, and the potential of thin film isn’t yet known. In any case, since you generally have plenty of roof space – certainly in a tropical latitude – your main concern should be installed cost per watt output. In that context efficiency isn’t relevant, it only affects how much roof you cover. Good luck and let us know how you do!

  4. Chi Pai(Mr) says:

    Dear Sir or madan:
    I would like to compare the cost per WATT between Polysilicon and


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