14 October 2010


Thin-film PV substrate and encapsulation market to reach $1.3bn by 2015

While glass will continue to dominate substrate and encapsulation materials used for thin-film photovoltaics (TFPV), new materials including metal foils, plastics, ceramics and composites will grow rapidly in importance, according to the new report ‘Encapsulation and Flexible Substrates for Thin-Film Photovoltaics’ from industry analyst firm NanoMarkets.

The main driver for using these new materials will be the need to support flexible PV in order to reduce panel costs using roll-to-roll (R2R) processes and the rise of intrinsically flexible products, notably those used for building-integrated PV (BIPV).

In total, the TFPV substrate/encapsulation market is expected to reach $1.3bn by 2015, then $1.8bn by 2017. Also, while some of the most advanced encapsulation systems have proved difficult to develop and come with a high cost, NanoMarkets has identified several areas where these systems are beginning to make economic sense, most notably in the copper indium gallium (di)sulphide (CIGS) sector.

The report notes that, despite their decline in overall market share, glass makers can still expect opportunities to emerge. Thus new flexible glasses will be able to participate in the growing sector of the TFPV market that uses R2R processes. The report also suggests that glass will continue to dominate for the highest-performing 'utility-grade' TFPV panels for both encapsulation and substrate purposes.

That said, NanoMarkets believes that the TFPV market is seeking new materials, such as low-cost thermally resistant plastics and lower-cost dyadic encapsulation systems that will serve as key enabling technologies for BIPV and mobile PV products. It claims that these new materials ultimately have opportunities that go well beyond the PV space, e.g. in flexible displays and flexible lighting.

The reports identifies the opportunities available for glassmakers, the plastics and metals industry and specialist encapsulation companies in the TFPV industry over the next eight years. Also covered are all the major inorganic TFPV markets, thin-film silicon, cadmium telluride (CdTe) and CIGS.

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