Although the solar module is the highest ticket item of a total solar system cost, the product has made significant gains to lower prices. Panel prices dropped nearly 40% in 2016 over 2015, but in 2017 they’re still expected to make up 45% of the total system cost. That cost is expected to drop to 29% of the total system cost by 2027, according to research by ITRPV, and panelists during the Intersolar North American educational session “PV Manufacturing: Pushing the Efficiency and Costs to New Levels” discussed the different developments that will bring crystalline silicon PV development to its most advanced and lowest cost yet.
Jutta Trube, managing director photovoltaic equipment with German Engineering Federation, used ITRPV data to show the major changes coming to the panel market. One of the main advancements is the increase in the number of busbars. Three-busbar solar panels are expected to be obsolete by 2027. Sven Kramer, vice president of sales solar technology for solar manufacturing line provider teamtechnik Maschinen and Anlagen GmbH, also supported this trend.
His company has increased development of multiple-busbar lines because companies find that the performance gain in worth the manufacturing switchover. Over a traditional three-busbar module, four-busbars gain 0.76% of performance, five-busbars gain 1.13% and six-busbars gain 1.32%. When switching to half-cut cells, four-busbar-half-cut cells gain 3.59% over full-sized three-busbar modules, five-busbar-half-cut cells gain 4.01% and six-busbar-half-cut cells gain 4.24% in performance.
Kramer and his company has found that maximum gains typically max out at six busbars.
“It’s a technical possibility to do that,” Kramer said of using more than six busbars, “but you’re not getting any advantage out of it.”
Half-cut solar cells will also gain market share if for the performance gains alone. Many companies have already switched to half-cut designs, including REC, and ITRPV expects half-cut cells to gain more market share within 10 years. Kramer said half-cut cells can increase power out by 5 to 8 W per module, depending on module design.
With better advancements and more efficient manufacturing lines, solar panels are still able to lower their prices.