Like many solar power startups, Siva Power started with some big dreams, but after the Chinese glut of cheap solar panels, Siva needed to change direction.
At first, under the name Solexant, the company was focusing on thin-film photovoltaic solar panels, “printing” nanocraystalline cadmium-telluride on flexible metal foil. Now, as Siva Power, the company believes it has found the key to less-expensive thin-film solar panels. Currently, the average CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, and selenium) thin-film solar panels are worth about 74 ¢/W (cents per watt), mostly due to a complicated multi-step manufacturing process. The current process deposits CIGS on metal foil, which is cut into strips, assembled into panels, and then glass-encapsulated.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has been encouraging solar panel companies to improve these prices. Under a program called SunShot, the DOE would like to see solar panel prices under 50 ¢/W by 2020, but Siva Power might just beat that figure if its manufacturing process can scale up properly. Siva Power’s thin-film solar panel process deposits CIGS directly on the glass, cutting out several steps in the manufacturing process. The new panels are 14.5% efficient and, with the construction of a 300 MW/yr plant, Siva figures it could build these solar panel at just 40 ¢/W. Given efficiency and manufacturing tweaks, Siva Power could get prices as low as 28 ¢/W by 2020.
Solar power systems, whether residential, commercial, or grid scale, are still quite expensive, not only in the solar panels themselves, but in controllers and backup energy storage as well. Solar power is already competitive with fossil fuels, but still hasn’t begun to take over. Could a low price on an efficient and reliable solar panel by Siva Power be the tipping point for an all-solar-power future?
Image © Siva Power