Chennai, Nov 18: The recent technology tie-up between Waaree Energies and the US company, GT Advanced Technologies, highlights the scope for further cost reduction in solar power. GTAT, a company that has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 (which lets it not to pay its creditors until it comes out of bankruptcy) had announced in March its new technology for connecting photo voltaic cells into a module. Merlin technology The cell metallisation and interconnect technology, dubbed Merlin, has been claimed to practically eliminate the use of expensive silver paste to string up cells. The result is 80 per cent reduction in silver paste consumption, and a 10 per cent overall reduction in the cost of producing the module. Waaree has announced a few days ago that it would incorporate the Merlin technology into its production process. No financial details were given, but the announcement said that Waaree would aggressively participate in Indias solar market.
Solar power cost Solar power costs have been coming down, as is evident from the recent results of the tariff-based bidding for projects in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. The results show that solar power companies trust that they will be able to make profit selling solar power at prices between Rs. 6.5 and Rs. 7 a kWhr. The question now is whether there is scope for prices to come down further. The Waaree-GTAT tie-up is to be seen in this context. Every company is doing its own bit in bringing down the costs and the totality of all that is a promise of significant cost reduction. Last month, polysilicon manufacturer, SunEdison, had announced that it could produce the basic solar raw material with a lot less energy. Pashupathy Gopalan, who heads the Asia-Pacific operations of the company, said the impact of it would be chipping of a full Re 1 from the cost of producing one kWhr of solar power. Other companies such as DuPont are working in the area of material science to bring down the costs. Sixty per cent of the cost of a solar PV plant is of the modules, and 70 per cent of the cost of the module is of materials, says Rahul Bhudwar, Vice President Strategy and Business Development, Tata Power Solar.
GTAT technology The GTAT technology is an example of reduction in material cost. Solar manufacturers are coming up with thinner glass and frameless modules. A big chunk of cost reduction will come from how much of suns energy is converted into electrical energy. The norm today is about 17 per cent, but companies are coming up with higher numbers. The US solar major, First Solar, recently announced that it had achieved efficiency level of 21 per cent and expects 22 per cent in 2017. Numbers of this order are for commercial scale plants, but much higher figures are reported in labs. The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems announced an efficiency level of 44.7 per cent by using fresnel - concentrator photo voltaic technology, where lenses concentrate sunlight onto the cells. When such technologies come to the market, solar power could cost half of what it is today.