Thin Film 2012 - 2016: Technologies, Markets and Strategies for Survival

by MJ Shiao

No other PV technology has seen as many false fits and starts, or held as much promise, as thin-film PV. During the height of the polysilicon bottleneck between 2004 and 2009, thin-film PV’s prospects seemed unparalleled. Shipments of thin film grew from a paltry 68 MW in 2004 to 2 GW in 2009.  By the end of 2009, thin film commanded 18% of the total market with no signs of slowing. 

While thin-film shipments continued to grow to 3.7 GW in 2011, cheap crystalline silicon dominated the industry from 2010 onward. Market share of thin-film PV dropped to 11%. In 2011, crystalline silicon PV prices dropped by over 40% over the course of the year, undermining the value proposition of thin-film solar cells.

Yet, despite the crystalline pricing madness, the future of thin film has not necessarily disappeared. Venture capital investment into thin film in Q4 2011 and Q1 2012 combined to reach nearly $300 million. Solar Frontier continues to ramp up its GW-scale CIGS facility. Tokyo Electron bought Oerlikon Solar for $275 million, affirming long-term faith in the thin-film silicon manufacturing space. With CdTe, GE continues to invest heavily in Primestar, and First Solar still intends to open new capacity in Vietnam and Mesa, Arizona.

Certainly, the current supply-demand balance is in flux, but in the long term, the fundamental value proposition of thin-film solar – low-cost PV divorced from polysilicon at comparable efficiencies – remains steadfast, although the path to competitiveness has been accelerated.

Source: GTM Research

At 321 pages, Thin Film 2012–2016: Technologies, Markets and Strategies for Survival is the fourth edition of GTM Research's annual update on the thin film PV space. With detailed, accurate historical data, a granular examination of manufacturing costs, technology analysis, recommendations for supplier strategies, and competitive intelligence on the top 80 firms in the space, it is the most comprehensive, data-driven and objective assessment of the space available to date.

To learn more about Thin Film 2012–2016: Technologies, Markets and Strategies for Survival, download the report's detailed brochure here.

MJ Shiao Head of Americas Research

MJ Shiao is the Head of Americas Research at GTM Research and manages GTM's solar market analyst team. He is responsible for strategy and development of GTM Research's coverage of the global solar market and solar market intelligence product suite. MJ is a leading expert on solar PV technologies and costs, authoring dozens of reports and leading custom engagements on U.S. solar, PV inverters, solar power electronics, PV balance of systems, solar monitoring, thin film PV and other solar topics. A 9-year veteran of the solar industry, MJ has experience ranging from fabrication of crystalline silicon solar cells to PV project development.

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