When the average person thinks of solar panels, they usually think of crystalline silicon solar modules. Silicon-based solar panels are the most dominant model on the market, accounting for his 90-95% of the global production market share.Other main module types are thin film solarusually made of cadmium telluride (CdTe) deposits.
without getting too stuck historical detailsthe first solar panels were invented in the United States in 1954 through silicon testing, and the material is still The dominant choice in the solar marketMost of the early research and investment went into silicon design and today there is a robust global silicon supply chain. But his CdTe thin-film technology, championed by manufacturer First Solar, has found a niche to serve the utility-scale market and is still making an important contribution to our greener future.
But the manufacturing processes for crystalline silicon and thin-film solar cells are different, and the new manufacturing tax credits in the Control Inflation Act seem to benefit thin-films the most initially. Here’s why:
Solar panel manufacturing process
Crystalline silicon solar panels start out as metallic grade silicon. A company refines it into solar-grade polysilicon. It is then shaped into ingots and cut into silicon wafers. The wafers are doped to create silicon cells, which are finally assembled into solar panels. There are some solar companies that handle multiple steps in this process, but for the most part the production of crystalline silicon solar panels is fragmented. Currently, there are only final solar panel assembly plants in the United States. US solar panel manufacturers would have to buy solar cells from overseas, and those solar cells would probably be made from another company’s solar wafers, and so on.
On the other hand, less people are cooking in the kitchen in the production of CdTe thin film solar panels. Typically, cadmium and tellurium are deposited on wafer-like glass, laser cut “cells” for interconnect lines and conductors, and another piece of glass to finish the panel. All completed in the same final unit on one production line. CdTe thin film panel manufacturers produce almost everything in-house, while crystalline silicon panel manufacturers rely on external suppliers for their silicon products.
IRA established manufacturing tax credit of 7¢/WDC for modules, 4¢/WDC $12/month for Cell2 $3 per kg for wafers and $3 for solar grade polysilicon.
US crystalline silicon panel assemblers will receive a credit of $22.40 per 420W module.
US thin-film panel makers, on the other hand, will receive $75.84 per 420 W module.SPW I used First Solar’s spec sheet to determine this rough calculation).
At first glance, thin-film solar module manufacturers have a clear financial advantage by increasing production. But crystalline silicon panel makers are also incentivized to innovate higher-power products and bring their fragmented supply chain in-house.
How credit will change the domestic manufacturing landscape
Both types of solar panel makers were included in the Senate Finance Committee’s debate on how best to structure the credits in the IRA. Scott Moskowitz, senior director and head of market intelligence, public relations and marketing for crystalline silicon panel maker Qcells North America, said the purpose of the law is to ensure that solar power produced in the He said the goal is to make it more competitive with solar PV.
“The Senate wanted to ensure that the credits were ‘technology-neutral’, so if we had a vertically integrated crystalline silicon PV manufacturer and a vertically integrated thin film manufacturer (thin film tends to be already vertically integrated ), but one is not at a disadvantage against the other,” he said. “No one manufacturer gets more tax credits than another manufacturer for products that do essentially the same thing.”
Having credits based on wattage encourages manufacturers to improve the output of their technology to earn more credits.
“It encourages innovation,” Moskowitz said. “Using higher wattage panels or more efficient cells gives you more credits per watt.”
Credits are available for 10 years and will be phased out in the second half. New facilities and expansions are announced quickly to take advantage of the credits, as some factories take years to start. Toledo Solar, his small-scale CdTe thin-film panel maker, which operates a 100 MW plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, is using a series of manufacturing credits available to thin-film companies to increase annual capacity Up to 2.8 GW by 2028.
“[IRA credits] Toledo Solar CEO Aaron Bates said: “Second, it gives the financial world confidence. Yes, the industry won’t be wiped out like it was in 2010.
“These are not small numbers,” he continued. “For us, he needs $40 million for every breakthrough growth, like 100 to 300 MW, 300 to 600 MW, etc. For FirstSolar, they’re doing his billion dollar project. These are no small endeavors.”
Qcells are $170 million Build a 1.4 GW solar module assembly plant in Georgia and a 7¢/WDC The credit given to the module is of great help. Qcells’ parent company Hanwha Group plans to invest in all areas of the silicon solar supply chain, so the country’s first vertically integrated crystalline silicon solar panel manufacturer could soon emerge.
“This is a multi-stage, multi-billion dollar investment plan. We need to understand how to build this complete value chain, from polysilicon to module,” said Moskowitz. “People in Washington want this policy to work. They want to see big investments out of it.”
Thin-film panel manufacturers may see easier ways to maximize available credit, but every manufacturer in the solar panel supply chain stands to benefit from an IRA.