Siva Power Is Aiming Low — for World’s Lowest-Cost Solar Panels

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Siva Power announces a roadmap for their Factory of the Future to achieve a world-best $0.28/watt panel cost in just four years. That’s not only ahead of the SunShot goal for 2030 but well under the target cost of $0.50/watt.

Recently rebranded Siva Power is aiming to make waves in the solar industry.

 

Yesterday, the company announced a new technology roadmap that projects the cost of its thin-film solar modules dropping to a world-best $0.28/watt. That’s well under the U.S. DOE’s SunShot Initiative goal to get under $0.50/watt by 2030.

 

Interestingly, at a time when trade wars are causing rifts in the industry yet customers still prefer American-made panels, Siva Power says that its advanced manufacturing approach keeps its projected costs geography-agnostic. In other words, this lower cost can be achieved in China, the U.S., or any other location.

 

Before you rush out to buy these products, we should note that it will be four years till the company is in production. However, the company will be offering cost reductions before then. Siva Power’s roadmap has them reaching $0.40/watt with just one fully operational 300 MW production line. This would be much lower than competitive CIGS companies at ~$0.74/watt, and more significant, it would be lower than the best silicon production lines in China ($0.55-0.70/watt) — or even the SunShot goal.

 

After two years of operation with just a few improvements in performance, the module cost will come down to $0.28/watt — in what Siva is calling the Factory of the Future.

 

“Silicon photovoltaic (PV) technology still relies on brute force replication of small production lines. The next wave of solar will require advanced manufacturing, high-speed automated production lines based on thin film PV,” said Brad Mattson, CEO of Siva Power. “Our technology roadmap results in a solar ‘Factory of the Future’ with gigawatt production capacity, competitive efficiency and the world’s lowest cost.”

 

How does Siva Power achieve such a low cost? A major piece of the puzzle is using glass as a substrate, which has already been scaled in the FPD industry — which means that much of the necessary equipment is essentially off-the-rack.

 

By comparison, the company says, silicon substrate scales poorly because of the fragility of the wafer, and silicon fab lines are unlikely to scale much more in the future. The only way to expand silicon capacity is to build many small lines, which offers little if any cost savings.

 

The 300 MW scale that Siva Power has selected has about 10 times the capacity of the typical silicon production line. By taking advantage of the high-speed automated tools already developed for the FPD industry, only minimal adaptation is needed to achieve 300 MW throughputs in solar, ensuring cost reductions and avoiding execution risk.

 

The plan provides further confirmation that technology is not always the issue when it comes to improving on solar. 

 

“Technology is important, but this $0.28/watt roadmap is not fundamentally about technology, it is about simple scaling of an already known and proven process,” said Markus Beck, CTO of Siva Power. “No new science is needed, just engineering execution.”

 

Siva Power’s automated 300 MW production line greatly reduces labor, factory, and land costs. The factory requires just one-third of the space and one-fifth the labor of a silicon line (when normalized for output). Capex is only $0.33/watt (as opposed to ~$1/watt for most companies).

 

Siva Power is in the process of building a small mini-module pilot line, the last step before full commercialization of the company’s CIGS technology.