Silicon cells have been the mainstay of the solar photovoltaic industry, but advances in competing technologies could give those manufacturers a toehold in the rapidly growing renewable power market.
Last week, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory said they had achieved a new efficiency record for one of those promising technologies, putting it within reach of the silicon cell mark.
The new technology uses copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS, to turn sunlight into electricity inside a thin-film solar cell that is generally less expensive than versions relying on polysilicon.
CIGS technology converts 19.9 percent of the sunlight hitting the cell into power, beating the previous mark of 19.5 percent and nearing the multicrystaline silicon cell record of 20.3 percent.
Global Solar, a privately held company that licenses CIGS technology from the NREL, last month opened an Arizona plant that will be capable of producing 40 MW of thin-film solar cells per year, and it plans to open another in Germany later this year.
Other companies using CIGS technology include NanoSolar, which sparked market interest last year with its promise to make low-cost cells, as well as Ascent Solar Technologies, Miasole, International Solar Electric Technology Inc, SoloPower Inc and Solyndra.
Analysts do not expect many public offerings from the sector in the near-term because of market turmoil that has caused shares of even the largest solar companies to swing wildly.
Daystar, one of the only publicly listed CIGS makers, has seen its stock sink by about half this year to around $3.40 as it moves toward putting its production plant on line....MORE
But, not so fast!
From the AP via Yahoo:
Trina Leads Solar Higher
Trina Leads Solar Sector Higher on Polysilicon Deal; Analyst Predicts Tight Supply Into '09
Trina Solar Ltd. led the solar-power sector higher on Wednesday after the company reported an eight-year polysilicon supply agreement.
Trina gained $3.22, or 9.8 percent, to $35.97 in morning trading.
Other stocks also rose as a solar-power conference in Germany kicked off. Analysts attending the Munich Photon Expo indicated that polysilicon supplies may remain tight through next year, but that companies are moving aggressively to bring the cost of solar power on par with traditional electricity.
Currently solar energy costs about three times as much as coal and natural gas to produce electricity.
Lehman Brothers analyst Vishal Shah said in a note Wednesday that conference attendees indicated polysilicon spot prices are up sharply this quarter. Spot prices are about 20 percent higher than during the fourth quarter, Shah said....MORE