HIGH-POWER SOLID-STATE LASERS: Lasers speed solar cell production
A new generation of Q-switched solid-state lasers is enabling thin-film laser scribing with a new set of processing parameters: High quality scribes for amorphous-silicon thin-film PV structures can be achieved at almost twice current scribing speeds.
The global photovoltaic (PV) cell manufacturing infrastructure is expanding rapidly, driven largely by generous government incentives. In Europe and parts of Asia, such subsidies make the economics of photovoltaics very attractive to end users and investors. In the United States, while the future of subsidization at the Federal level remains cloudy, several states have established incentive structures for accelerating adoption of PV systems. And recent changes in Germany and Japan indicate a shift away from nuclear energy and toward renewable sources such as solar energy. So the recent past has been an exciting time for PV and annual installations have skyrocketed from 1.74 GW in 2006 to more than 16 GW last year—a 75% compound annual growth rate for that four-year period. Given such impressive growth rates, there is every reason to expect that PV technology will continue its march toward “grid parity”—the point at which the cost of solar power becomes equivalent to that of conventional electrical power. For most major US markets, numerous analyses over the past five years have projected that grid parity will occur between 2013 and 2018.