ARCIGS-M
Advanced aRchitectures for ultra-thin high-efficiency
CIGS solar cells with high Manufacturability

 
 
 

ABOUT THE PROJECT

 
 

From the thirteen project partners, there are three universities, four research institutions and six industrial companies. The consortium bring different players present in the vertical chain of photovoltaics, from research groups with vast experience in thin film solar cells nanofabrication and prototyping, to photovoltaic module manufacturers, to equipment manufacturers, to suppliers of raw materials to end users of photovoltaic modules. This experienced consortium brings the necessary skills to develop advanced architectures in thin film solar cells capable of having ultrathin CIGS layers at a reduced cost.

The solar cell technology is experiencing a very large growth, globally. Today, yearly solar cell installations amount to 50 GW and more of 90 % of these installations consist of crystalline Si-based modules. According to the International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme, solar cells accounted for 1 % of the world´s electricity generation during 2014 and preliminary numbers for 2015 are close to 1.3 %. A market segment - which is identified as a fast grower in the near future - is building integrated photo voltaics (BIPV), either as integrated in building elements or applied onto existing built structures. Integration into roofs and facades may present cost-effective solutions, since the modules can substitute other building elements, such as roofing (tiles, shingles or steel) or façade materials, such as glass. However, this also puts additional requirements on the modules, such as light-weight, possibly semi-transparency and not least important: aesthetics.

For the BIPV market, thin-film PV materials and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) solar cells has been identified as important future upcoming solar cell technology. Especially CIGS photo voltaics (PV) modules resulting from ARCIGS-M possesses some qualities that makes it a good fit for the BIPV market, i.e. its low weight, low light efficiency, flexibility and great aesthetics at reasonable prices, all qualities that cannot be met by today’s Si technology. In addition, thin film modules with a uniform black surface will have a better chance to fit in, especially in areas with strict rules for appearance of building materials, where conventional silicon-based modules with their bluish shimmering appearance fall short. The aim of ARCIGS-M is to prepare CIGS for its BIPV future, by development of advanced materials solutions and architectures. 

High light-to-power conversion efficiency is of vital importance for the pricing of modules, since materials are paid by area, but modules are sold in price per Watt (peak power). Module efficiency will also impact the system costs, since it takes less area to install a specific capacity. Hence, a high efficiency module provides a better return of investment for a consumer than a low efficiency module, even if its absolute price is lower. The latest efficiency development in thin film technology with CIGS-based solar cells on glass is impressive and shows that conversion efficiencies above 22 % are realistic, with active layer thicknesses of 3 µm. In ARCIGS-M, the active layer thickness will be reduced further, leading to even better resource efficiency and lower material cost in comparison to crystalline silicon and allow for a more than doubled throughput in manufacturing.

Furthermore, the ARCIGS-M devices fulfil the requirements for the Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) and is a promising product for one of the major challenges in KETs – to translate knowledge to marketable goods and services. The project is also well aligned with the CIGS white paper (http://cigs-pv.net, published in December 2015 by European CIGS PV actors), where the targets are 18 % module and 25 % cell efficiency for fully thick state-of-the-art devices, and where three of the partners are among the signees (MS, SOL and IRDEP).