Sample Engineering Research Paper on Performance and Economic Analysis of Thin-Film Photovoltaic vs. Concentrated Solar Power

Performance and Economic Analysis of Thin-Film Photovoltaic vs. Concentrated Solar Power

The Thin Film Photovoltaic/ Solar Cells (TFPC) are made through placement of at least one film of photovoltaic material on a substrate. There are various advantages associated with the use of the TFPC. One key advantage is the reduction in costs involved compared to silicon photovoltaic cells. The TFPC are constructed using very thin films of photovoltaic materials, smaller volumes of electric substrate and fewer numbers of the photovoltaic materials. The performance of the TFPCs is evaluated through the solar cell efficiencies.

The three types of TFPC perform differently. For instance, the Amorphous Silicon (a-Si) cells are the most efficient in small scale operations hence applied where the energy demand is low. On the other hand, the Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) cells are the most eco friendly of all the TFPCs since it takes the least amount of energy in development. It is also the most efficient in terms of all operations even though the cadmium in the cell has heavy metal properties which make it environmentally degrading.

While the two types of TFPC already described are efficient in the conventional types, the most modern type of TFPC is the Copper Indium Gallium Selenium (CIGS) type. Being the most modern, it is also the most efficient and applies the newest technology (Onoda et al., 2012). With conversion efficiencies of 19 percent, this is more efficient that the a-Si and the CdTe cells. This surpasses the 18.7 percent efficiency threshold that had been attained by the earlier thin film cell designs. This means that it performs better that the counter parts which were considered more efficient in previous times. This is attributed to the flexibility which is associated with this particular cell design. The conductors used in the CIGS c ells absorb 90 percent of the incident light (Lombardo, 2013).

The key advantage associated with the TFPCs is the low cost of production and installation. The cells consume low amounts of space, use fewer materials and require less machinery and equipments in installation. Moreover, the small sizes associated with the cells also increase portability and reduce the transportation costs used. They also reduce fuel consumption during energy generation and reduce the wear and tear rates of the generators.

On the other hand, concentrated solar power uses multiple (thousands) of mirrors to collect and concentrate solar power for energy production. The key parts of the concentrated solar power system are the heliostat which concentrates the solar energy and reflects them into the receiver which directs the energy for water heating. The heated water is kept until when energy is required and used in steam generation for energy. The systems have an efficiency rating of 14- 16 percent. They have storage capacities of 40- 70 percent for 5 to 6 hours. However, they are relatively expensive to construct and maintain.

The key limitation associated with the concentrated solar power systems is the high capital cost requirements. The systems are large hence requiring much land, more infrastructural building materials and more labor during installation (Stoddard et al., 2006). This increases the costs of installation. Moreover, the systems are not portable due to the large sizes. Despite the limitations of cost and portability, the concentrated solar power systems provide permanent jobs in maintenance and installation.

Moreover, they can help reduce the costs of power due to the fixed cost operation associated with the systems. The environmental impacts of the systems are also low due to reduced emissions. While TFPC can be installed anywhere, the concentrated solar power systems cannot due to their large sizes. However, the TFPC are limited due to the lower storage capacity compared to the CSP hence are not commercially feasible (Gasper, 2013).


Gasper, R. (2013). How Solar PV is Winning Over CSP. Retrieved on December 21, 2013 from

Lombardo, T. (2013). Record Breaking Thin Film Photovoltaic Cells. Retrieved on December 21, 2013 from

Onoda, T., Bekki, D. &Mc Cready, E. (2012). New Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence. New York: Springer.

Stoddard, L., Abiccunus,J., & O’Connell, R. (2006). Economic Energy and Environmental Benefits of Concentrating Solar Power in California. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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