Alive Solar | Escondido | San Diego | Thin Film Solar Technology - Alive Solar | Escondido | San Diego

Thin Film Solar Technology

By Adam Hammill

It seems that the vast majority of the industry drastically misunderstands the importance of thin-film. I’ve been exclusively installing Stion thin-film panels since 2013. Their current model produces on average 10% more kilowatt hours per square foot installed than typical crystalline silicone PV. Its electrical characteristics cause it to start working earlier in the day and later into the evening, deal better with shade, and work under cloud cover, and work at less-than-ideal tilts and angles because it does not require direct sunlight. These US-made panels are already well below $1/watt, and competitive with cheap imported crystalline PV. It is a shame that the news about First Solar took up the majority of the article, when what Stion is doing for the industry is far more significant.

Additionally, the installation of CIGS PV at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory has shown ZERO detectable degradation in the eight years it has been installed. Please show me a crystalline solar PV technology that can display that kind of longevity. Further, the thin film panels have hundreds less possible points of failure as compared to crystalline PV, FAR lower temperature coefficients (about half of crystalline PV — so they’ll produce more power on hot days when the most light is available), and lower BOS costs because peak amperages are so much lower.

They integrate with standard inverters, and are available TODAY. Sure, it will be better when the next generation is released, but my current installations (with 20-year financing) end up costing my customers under $0.10 per kWh for the 20 years of the loan (and obviously cost nothing after that). Sure, there are a lot of exciting developments in this industry, but the super-high-efficiency developments I hear talked about will mostly never see the light of day because they will never be cost effective compared to what is available now. When/if they are, I will use them, but there is no reason to wait. That kind of development will not likely happen before the panels I’m installing today have reached the end of their 30-year life.

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