Increasing demands for clean energy is a major reason for the globally growing utilization of solar energy. Innovations in the development of the photovoltaic (PV) cells played a major role in capturing solar energy efficiently. PV cells can be combined in collector panels which convert solar energy into electrical energy through the photoelectric effect. Commercially crystalline silica and its oxides are used to manufacture PV cells. Silicon is abundantly present all around the world and is an environmentally safe element, and thereby the ideal choice. Crystalline solar PV collectors are mostly used in the industrial and residential sectors.
Numerous innovations are also in progress to improve the efficiency of PV cells made from crystalline silicon so as to tap solar energy efficiently. Monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, and amorphous silicon are major types of silicon presently used. Other materials which can be employed for this purpose are cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium selenide/sulfide.
A majority of the world’s PV solar collectors are based on different variations of silicon used in PV cell manufacturing technologies which distinguished them as monocrystalline and polycrystalline PV cells. These solar cells are made out of cylindrical silicon ingots which are further modified to make silicon wafers. Monocrystalline PV cells are made from an extremely pure form of silica which exhibits prominent solar conversion efficiency. Polycrystalline silicon solar cells are manufactured from less pure silicon and are therefore less efficient. Multiple types of solar collectors have been developed recently to improve the efficiency of solar energy collection such as thin-film solar cells, amorphous silicon (a-Si) collectors, cadmium telluride cells, copper indium gallium selenide-based collectors, and organic photovoltaic collectors.
The main advantages of thin film PV collectors are their relatively low consumption of raw materials, high efficiency, reduction in sensitivity on overheating, improved integration & appearance, and excellent performance at high ambient temperatures. Their current drawbacks are their limited solar conversion efficiency and the industry’s inadequate experience with lifetime performance.
A few recently developed solar collection technologies include solar thermoelectricity systems, dye sensitized solar cells and concentrated photovoltaic collector systems which may hold a significant share in the solar energy market if they become competitive enough to be commercialized.
The annual global production of solar energy is estimated to reach over 500GW by the end of 2020 (from 40 GW in 2013) which indicates that the global crystalline solar collector market is expanding rapidly displays excellent potential. China and Germany are the leading countries in terms of solar PV collectors and account for an installed capacity of more than 37 GW. The market is burgeoning in South East Asia due to growing energy demands and strict global environmental norms. Decreasing costs of PV cells, uncertainties in the global oil & gas industry, and advanced technological innovation are helping make solar panels smaller, cheaper and more customer friendly thereby attracting several countries to adopt them in their energy replenishment programs.
Major restraints for the crystalline solar PV collector market are the reduced solar conversion efficiency of the existing PV cells and use of modern crystalline materials which are expensive and toxic for the environment. Efforts are being taken to increase their efficiency of solar collectors through new technological breakthroughs such as nano-crystalline solar cells, thin-film processing, metamorphic multijunction solar cells, and polymer processing to propel the PV solar collector industry.
Key global players in market include Wuxi Sutech Power Co., Ltd., First Solar Inc., Juwi Solar, Inc., Yingli Solar, Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group, BP Solar, and Canadian Solar Inc. Major Indian manufacturers are SunFuel, SSL Ltd, and Emmvee Photovoltaic. PV is projected to produce about 10% of world’s electricity by 2030. The Market’s future prospects appears to be promising and it is poised to be a major contributor in energy replenishment of the world in the near future.
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