Thin film solar is no doubt the wave of the future in solar power. This technology has been coming along for quite a few years and we're happy to say that it is finally here!
This technology is great for many reasons, let's go over some of them:
Hard to argue with solar prices dropping by 70-80% right?! That's what is happening in the not so distant future. Manufacturers are claiming that these products will be available for $1-$2 per watt. Since traditional panels are now selling for $4-$5 per watt, that is welcome news. So many projects that were infeasible for economic reasons now make sense.
And with the amount of investment in research and development, you can bet it won't be long before sun is powering virtually everything and its cheap enough for almost every house.
The knock on thin film was always that efficiency couldn't match up with traditional crystalline panels. Efficiency measures the amount of electricity produced by a panel versus how much of the sun's energy actually hits the unit. Film often had less than 10% efficiency, while solid panels usually ranged from 15-20%. Now we are seeing measured efficiency with film in the 10% range.
But that doesn't tell the whole story. Thin film performs much better than regular panels in low light, incedent light, and slightly shaded conditions. So that means that actual production throughout the day is better than previous thought. Some installers are experiencing performance higher than 30% of estimated over the long term. This means actual efficiency may actually be closer to 15%, within striking distance of crystalline cells.
Since film is flexible and has no hard form, there are far more places where they can be installed. We will see the day when not only roofs, but windows, walls, awnings, umbrellas, cars, and just about anything else that is exposed to sun will be covered in power-generating cells. And since the film is covered in durable plastic and actually gives way to hard impacts, they will last longer in more varied conditions. And if they don't, they can be replaced much easier since they cost so much less!