A new report released by NanoMarkets, an analyst firm, reveals that although glass will continue to dominate substrate and encapsulation materials used for thin-film photovoltaics (TFPV), new materials, such as metal foils, plastics, ceramics and composites, are expected to grow quickly in importance. The main motivation for utilizing the new materials for TFPVs, will be the need to support flexible PV in order to reduce PV panel costs using R2R processes, and the rise of “intrinsically flexible products; notably those used for building-integrated PV (BIPV).”
The report indicates that the total TFPV substrate/encapsulation market is predicted to reach $1.3 billion by the year 2015 and further reaching $1.8 billion by the year 2017.
Generally, the most advanced encapsulation systems have proven to be difficult to develop as well as costly, the company has indicated several areas where the systems are starting to make economic sense, specifically in the CIGS sector.
According to a press release issued by NanoMarkets, the report indicates the following:
The NanoMarkets report notes that, despite their decline in overall market share, glass makers can still expect opportunities to emerge for them. Thus new flexible glasses will be able to participate in the growing sector of the TFPV market that uses R2R processes. In addition, the report suggests that glass will continue to own 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, in flexible displays and flexible lighting, for example.