Technology Review – Chinese energy giant Hanergy bought Miasole, a Silicon Valley-based thin-film solar company, at less than a tenth the amount venture capitalists had invested in the firm. Thin-film solar panels cannot competing with conventional silicon ones under today’s market conditions. Thin film solar might still have a strong future.
The poor market conditions that have kept thin-film companies from competing may not last: when demand increases and it comes time to start building solar-panel factories again, the argument goes, the technology might have a significant advantage, because for comparably sized plants, it could cost far less to build a new thin-film factory than a conventional one.
A gigawatt-scale thin-film plant would cost $350 to 450 million, versus $1 billion for a conventional silicon plant.
If you add the cost of producing polysilicon the equivalent to the raw materials that thin-film solar plants use, the capital cost for a silicon plant goes up to $2 billion or more, he says. But most plants buy silicon from large suppliers.)
So far, the companies with the potentially cheapest thin-film technology have built only relatively small factories that cost far more per watt than large ones, and building larger plants doesn’t make sense in the current market.