CIGS Photovoltaics Market Opportunities 2011

30 Sep 2011 • by Natalie Aster

In recent years, CIGS has become a collection of contradictions. While it has achieved the highest conversion efficiency among the thin-films, its progress toward high volumes has been sluggish. And while the volume growth of leading companies has been well behind the level of expectations that CdTe has set, dozens of small companies continue to enter the CIGS market, especially in China and Taiwan. Finally, while flexible CIGS PV—especially in the form of BIPV—is widely considered the path for success, there are still concerns about the durability of such flexible products given CIGS’ sensitivity to moisture.

The report “CIGS Photovoltaics Market Opportunities 2011” by NanoMarkets analyzes the money-making opportunities for CIGS PV. These are examined from the perspectives of CIGS PV’s strengths—high performance and flexibility—and its weaknesses, sensitivity to moisture and difficult manufacturing processes. It takes an honest look at the processes and strategies of the various firms making CIGS and at the markets in which CIGS has unique advantages. The report also includes NanoMarkets’ eight-year forecasts of the market for CIGS PV.

Report Details:

CIGS Photovoltaics Market Opportunities 2011

Published: February 2011
Price: US$ 2,695.00

Report Sample Abstract

Overcoming Sensitivities

A major drawback of CIGS PV compared to crystalline silicone is its moisture sensitivity. Conventional panels and other rigid products don’t have this problem. As a result, flexible encapsulation is a major component of flexible CIGS development.

The most robust approach today involves the use of dyadic systems, which are comprised of alternating layers of two different materials, usually polymers and ceramics. But this approach requires many layers to be really effective, and that adds cost. Furthermore, the deposition and curing conditions can potentially hurt the cells.

As a result, there is pent up demand for less costly and simpler technologies. Recent developments are in part helping drive the growing interest in CIGS. Major chemical companies including Dow Chemical, Fujifilm, 3M (working with SoloPower) and DuPont (working with the US Department of Energy) have all announced progress in encapsulant technologies for CIGS PV.

NanoMarkets believes that, ultimately, the opportunities for encapsulation will depend on the PV application. For portable products with a minimum expected lifespan, low cost encapsulation that provides a minimum level of performance will likely be satisfactory. For flexible BIPV that is expected to last for decades, very robust encapsulation will be necessary. It is in these applications that the recent developments mentioned above will enable CIGS to achieve its true market potential.

The Question of Indium Supply

CIGS producers face uncertainty in indium supply and pricing. The display industry is the largest consumer of indium (in the form of indium tin oxide (ITO) for transparent conductors, and demand is predicted to increase as this market continues to expand. Furthermore, indium prices have risen recently and are expected to continue to climb over the next several years.

Much of the pricing issue has arisen as the result of actions taken by the Chinese government to limit exports. There are active indium sources in North America and Australia with stockpiles of concentrates, and they now have incentive to sell this inventory. It is uncertain how quickly such activities would impact the market, however. Historically the industry has been slow to respond to supply/demand swings.

The Manufacturing Issue

CIGS producers are still faced with the challenge of producing high efficiency cells on a commercial scale. Performance depends on quality, so when developing production methods, the difficulty and cost of creating CIGS films must be balanced with quality and performance.

Conventional vacuum deposition methods including sputtering and evaporation are well understood, available and have lead to the highest performing cells. Over 90% of the CIGS PV produced today is vacuum deposited.

Quality is an issue when these processes are scaled up, however. Metal waste is also seen as a real issue for both sputtering and evaporation. And currently debate continues regarding whether to scale up batch processes or use continuous methods to achieve faster processing and larger substrates. To date, the largest growth has been in rigid, batch processing, most likely because it is widely understood and been demonstrated to achieve volume production in the tens of megawatts.

NanoMarkets predicts, however, that a gradual shift will take place from these classical methods to alternatives such as electrodeposition, roll-to-roll (R2R) and printing.

Electrodeposition: Electrodepostion utilizes simple precursors and relatively low cost equipment, and margins are not significantly affected if the plant is run at lower than capacity. The technique is also more efficient than conventional methods in terms of energy consumption and waste generation. For these reasons, NanoMarkets believes that electrodeposition of CIGS may offer a strong entry point for a number of firms. Odersun is the currently the clear leader with the largest commercial production capacity. Others using electrodeposition include SoloPower (commercial), NEXCIS and CIS Solartechnik (pilot plant) and CIS Solar (research).

Roll-to-roll: Continues R2R processes are expected to be more scalable than batch processes and are ideally suited for flexible substrates. Approximately one-third of CIGS suppliers have or are developing R2R processes. Global Solar, Oderson and MiaSole have all demonstrated high volume production at tens of megawatts. This process also seems well suited for smaller producers and could offer licensing opportunities to major players. Global Solar appears to be pursuing this opportunity with Istar Solar and Shurjo Energy.

While rigid manufacturing presently dominates and will continue to do so, NanoMarkets expects roll-to-roll manufacturing to account for as much as 35% of the market by 2018.

Printing: Printing was initially thought to be the solution for commercial scale CIGS manufacturing, but now appears to have issues of its own, and NanoMarkets expects that printed CIGS will remain a relatively small part of the CIGS market for at least the next eight years.

The Competitive Landscape

About 50 companies are presently vying for a piece of the CIGS market compared to 20 in 2009. Many of the newer firms are in Asia, and NanoMarkets believes that there is a special fit between CIGS and China in particular, due to the situation with indium and the growing demand from an increasing middle class for demand higher value products such as those containing CIGS PV.

But NanoMarkets does not believe that the market can support 50 suppliers. About six leaders will emerge by 2012/2013, each producing over 10 megawatts and a few of those will ramp up to truly high volumes. An additional dozen or so will produce tens of megawatts.

New key players include Daiyang Metal and Stion/TSMC. Solar Frontier (backed by Shell) is constructing a 900 MW factory that is expected to be fully operational in 2011. MiaSole has raised $100 million in new money and is expanding capacity.


There is considerable evidence to suggest that CIGS makers have been correct to make such investments. Applications for which CIGS is being targeted over the next several years already are being pursued by firms using other TFPV technologies and should be relatively easy for CIGS firms to capture due to its higher efficiency.

CIGS PV may also enable new applications where the size or low power output of other TFPV technologies limits their viability.

Most notably, growth of CIGS will be substantial if only the announced planned capacity is actually installed and operated at modest levels. And with silicon supply problems over, c-Si PV is growing rapidly again and TFPV technologies will have a hard time competing because of their lower efficiencies – except CIGS.

More information can be found in the report “CIGS Photovoltaics Market Opportunities 2011” by NanoMarkets.

To order the report or ask for sample pages contact


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