By John West, Managing Director, VLSI Research
As recently as a couple of years ago, solar panels based on thin-film manufacturing technology were being promoted as the low-cost alternative to crystalline silicon. Not only was it cheaper, but thin film also had a convincing roadmap which guaranteed this cost advantage for the foreseeable future. That was 2008, when persistently high polysilicon prices seemed inevitable as demand for solar electricity boomed. We now know that assumption to be false, and although we all knew polysilicon prices would fall eventually, no one predicted the speed and magnitude with which they crashed: in the space of several months, prices reached the point where any advantage associated with the lower materials costs of thin-film manufacturing were completely blown away.