PV Solar Cells or Photovoltaic Solar Cells are the building blocks of Solar Panels which are used to generate electricity from the Sun in residential or commercial establishments.Solar Cells are made of crystalline silicon the same substance that is used to make semiconductors which go into making of electronic products.Note Thin Film Solar Cells are not found for practical purposes as Thin Film Solar Production generally is a one step continuous process in which the whole solar panel is produced.On the other hand c-Si production is a 5 step process in which Solar Cells is the intermediate product of the 4th stage and goes as input to making of solar modules/panels.Solar Cells can be bought and made into Solar Panels as PV Solar Cells don’t have much of a standalone usage.Note Buying Solar Cells and making DIY Solar Panels does not make much sense as it adds little value and does not save money.You are better off buying Solar Panels from affordable solar panel manufacturers.
Solar Cells Efficiency
Solar Cells Efficiency can vary from 16% to 24% for the normal crystalline silicon technology.Note there are some solar cells made from exotic materials like Gallium which can produce solar cells of more than 40% efficiency .However these solar cells are for niche applications like Spacecraft and don’t make much sense economically.Solar Cells are of 2 types a) Multicrystalline b) Monocrysalline.Mutli Solar Cells have lower efficiency that the Solar Cells made from monocrystalline Solar Cells.However Mutlicrystalline Solar Cells have lower cost to compensate for their lower efficiency.Note most solar cell manufacturers are constantly improving efficiency in order to lower their costs and get ahead in this competitive solar industry.Sunpower makes the highest efficiency crystalline solar cells on a commercial scale.
Solar Cells Cost
Solar Cells Cost has been decreasing rapidly over the last 3-4 years as the scale has increased,Technology improved,Raw Material Polysilicon price has declined.Solar Cells which used to sell for $2.5/watt can be bought on a commercial scale for around $1.2/watt.Note Solar Cell Costs depend on the Brand of the Company,Mono-Multi and the Shape/Size as well.Solar Cell Cost is mainly depended on 2 factors
a) Raw Material Solar Wafer Cost
b) Processing Cost
Solar Wafer Manufacturers sell Solar Wafers in 5-6 inches size wafers for around $3.5-4.5 per piece to Solar Cell Producers which then Process the Solar Wafers to Produce the Small Solar Cells.Note Solar Cell Processing Cost can vary between 20-30c/watt.
Buying Solar Cells
Solar Cells cannot be bought in small enough quantities from major cell producers.However some websites sell used/new solar cells though their costs would be much higher than what you could get if you bought solar cells in bulk.There are very few companies that sell solar cells ( most sell solar panels).Those pure solar cell suppliers generally sell to big solar panel manufacturers who use these solar cells in big factories to produce solar panels for sale.As I said making solar panels to save money is a stupid idea as you can buy solar panels cheaply if you do your research.
Solar Cell Manufacturers
Note Most of the Big Solar Panel Producers make their own Solar Cells however there does exist some large Solar Cell Manufacturers though many of them are diversifying into production of Solar Panels as well.Here is a list
1) JA Solar – This Chinese company is not only the biggest solar cell producer in the world but is also the lowest cost one as well.The company has grown much faster than the industry due to its low costs and good quality.The company is looking to ship more than 2 GW of Solar Panels and Cells in 2011 with 50% growth.The company has small wafer and module facilities as well but continues to be primarily a solar cell producer
2) Gintech – This Taiwanese company has become the biggest solar cell producer in the country overtaking Motech.The company continues to expand aggressively as it uses its high quality to win more contracts from Japanese and European customers.
3) Motech - The company which used to be a pure play cell producer has expanded into polysilicon,modules and wafers.It is one of the oldest solar cell companies in Taiwan and faced tough times in 2008 post the GFC.TSMC owns a stake in this company.
4) Neo Solar - This is one of the fastest growing companies in Taiwan and has focused on solar cells.It has managed to grow revenues and shipments despite tough competition from domestic as well as international competition.
5) Q-Cells - The largest solar producer of cells in 2008 faced a horrendous 2009 running losses of as high as Euro 1 billion.After restructuring it has moved its factories to Malaysia and has diversified into solar modules and systems.The German company has seen its stock price drop more than 95% from the peak levels.It is using Flextronics as an outsourced module producer for its cells.
6) Del Solar - This company is another Taiwanese one with big operations in solar cells like the others.The company is also a new one like Neo Solar and has given strong competition to others like Motech.
7) China SunEnergy - This is a small Chinese Company which primarily engages in solar cell production.However industry cost pressures have made it get into module production as well.It bought 2 small Chinese panel companies in order to survive the onslaught.It has drastically reduced costs in the last one year to become competitive.
8 ) E-Ton – This Taiwanese Solar Cell Producer used to be one of the biggest pre 2008,however currently it faces huge headwinds.The company faces financial problems from a US acquisition that went wrong.It was on the verge of selling itself to Foxconn but the deal did not went through.