Project: PEPPER


Title: "Demonstration of high performance Processes and equipments for thin film silicon photovoltaic modules produced with lower environmental impact and reduced cost and material use"


FP7 -ENERGY.2009.2.1.2


Short Description: The last ten years have seen a dramatic change for the field of renewable energies. High conventional energy prices and the awareness of the impact of global warming have led, with the assistance of suitable supporting laws, to the creation of a strongly growing clean-tech industry.

Photovoltaics is particularly attractive because it can physically cover on the long term an important fraction of electricity needs. For mass implementation, besides intelligent and novel solutions for energy management, a further strong reduction in manufacturing costs of photovoltaic components typically by a factor two to three is required.

Several technology routes in photovoltaics have such a potential including crystalline silicon, the various thin film approaches (CIGS, CdTe, thin film silicon), and III/V semiconductor based solar cells and concentrator technology. Each technology has strengths and weaknesses, which have to be overcome.

Thin film approaches are particularly attractive because they offer inherently the prospect of low material usage, low cost and high production throughput. They have suffered until recently from their relative immaturity and from the lack of dedicated equipment suppliers, in contrast to the well established crystalline silicon technology case.

The recent creation of several tens of companies (over 80 worldwide and more than 25 in Europe) aiming at producing thin film silicon based modules (amorphous or micromorph stacks of amorphous and microcrystalline cells) is mainly related to (1) the recent shortage of silicon feedstock and (2) the entrance of large professional equipment suppliers on the market (Oerlikon, AMAT, Ulvac…) which could transfer to photovoltaics part of their experience in the flat panel display industry. Using the window of opportunity linked to the silicon feedstock problem and the promise of low production costs, these companies could acquire a strong base of customers and are already installing a first generation of production process tools.

In this context the Swiss company Oerlikon was the first European equipment maker to invest massively into photovoltaics and is currently the leading European equipment supplier to thin film silicon photovoltaics manufacturing companies. Oerlikon has also a strong customer base in Europe.

The challenges faced by all these companies are the followings:

- Prove thin film silicon photovoltaics as reliable and cost competitive when compared to the mature crystalline silicon market,

- Follow an aggressive cost reduction route which should typically lead to cost reduction from 1.3 to 0.8 €/Wp for amorphous silicon modules, 1.4 to 0.5 €/Wp for micromorph modules, while improving the efficiency,

- Resist the competition of other non European technology routes.

Based on the huge experience gathered by the industrial partners of this project and on the key results and expertise from the academic groups this consortium aims to develop a new generation of production line which goes much beyond just a conservative tuning of process parameters, but instead introduces new concepts which promise improvements in large steps.

The approach of the project gives a priority to all major issues in the manufacturing while also taking a special care in the life cycle assessment of the process and product, which will become a critical success factor for the sustainability of the technology.


Project started 1/9/2010

Duration 36 months

Check the press release

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