Solar PV technology trends: Increase in wafer sizes
The solar industry is constantly evolving, and one of the trends driving its growth is the increasing wafer size. In this article, we will explore the drivers and benefits of this trend and the potential risks associated with it. Additionally, we will summarize the wafer size increase over the last decade.
Drivers & Benefits:
Improvements in Manufacturing Capabilities:
As technology continues to advance, manufacturing capabilities also improve. The solar industry has seen significant advancements in the manufacturing process, which has led to larger wafer sizes. With larger wafer sizes, there is potential for cost savings, as more cells can be produced per wafer, reducing material costs.
Enables Larger Module Sizes:
One of the biggest benefits of larger wafer sizes is that it enables larger module sizes. Large format modules provide higher energy output, which is essential for large-scale solar projects. These larger modules can also help reduce installation time and costs as fewer modules are needed to achieve the same power output.
Larger wafer sizes also offer the potential for efficiency gains. With larger wafers, it is possible to cut more cells from a single wafer, resulting in a higher energy output. This technology, known as cell cutting, has been a significant driver of the industry’s growth.
Requires Adaptation of Cell and Module Processes:
Adopting larger wafer sizes requires significant process changes. The manufacturing process must be adapted to accommodate larger wafers and cells. Additionally, introducing additional process steps may be required to maintain the same level of cell quality and reliability.
Introduction of Additional Process Steps:
Adapting to larger wafer sizes may require the introduction of additional process steps, which can increase manufacturing costs. Manufacturers must evaluate the benefits of larger wafer sizes against the potential costs of implementing these additional process steps.
Handling of Larger Wafers and Cells is More Complex:
Larger wafers and cells are more challenging to handle, especially when coupled with thinner cells. This increased complexity can result in a higher risk of cell fractures, which can significantly impact cell quality and reliability.
Wafer Size Increase Over the Last Decade:
The table below shows the increase in wafer sizes over the last decade:
|Year||Wafer Size (mm)|
|2013||156 or 158|
|2015||156 or 156.75|
|2017||166 or 156.75|
|2018||166 or 182|
|2020||182 or 210|
|2021||210 or 182|
The increasing wafer size trend in the solar industry is driven by improvements in manufacturing capabilities, enabling larger module sizes and potential efficiency gains. However, adapting to larger wafer sizes requires significant process changes, introduces additional process steps, and poses potential risks associated with handling larger wafers and cells. The industry must continue to evaluate the benefits against the potential risks to ensure that this trend is sustainable and drives growth in the solar industry.