Modules

Modules are still a key factor in the price of a photovoltaic system. Apollon Solar started its activities by focusing on modules, developing the NICE process described below. This in turn revealed the potential for many other developments yet to be realized, the ultimate aim being to turn modules into cost-effective, standardized products.

NICE (New Industrial Cell Encapsulation) is an innovative photovoltaic-module assembly process. Developed by Apollon Solar, in cooperation with its partners, this technology brings numerous advantages in terms of automation, quality and cost.

 

State of the art

The existing photovoltaic-module lamination process, with an organic EVA-type encapsulant, is difficult to fully automate, labour-intensive and fails to deliver the lifetime quality demanded by the market. The soldering stage is also critical for the module’s long-term efficiency, because it may induce thermal and mechanical stress at cell-level. Finally most organic encapsulants account for optical losses due to partial absorption in the UV part of the spectrum.

 

Objectives

NICE aims to reduce the cost of producing solar-modules by between 30% and 50% compared with current module-encapsulation costs in Europe, while at the same time boosting product quality and service life.

 

New approach

NICE uses a sealing technology inspired by the insulating-glass industry. The sealing material can be used and applied at ambient temperature and allows a volume to be created inside the module which is perfectly protected from the outside, particularly from ambient air and moisture ingress. .
For the electrical connections between the cells, reducing the pressure inside the module secures a contact between cells and copper strips without any soldering, thus reducing the risk of cell damage.

The rear side of the module is also a sheet of glass (double-glazed module), instead of the conventional polymeric layer, in order to ensure that the module seal is air and water-tight, limit costs and restrict the use of petrol-based products. More technical details can be found in our publications.

 


Development

This technology was developped with leading international partners and firms not initially involved in photovoltaics. Our partners include Vincent Industrie, which manufactures the NICE production lines and CEA-INES (National Solar Energy Institute).

 

Present situation

The present version of the industrial NICE module comprises 60 industrial mono-c Silicon cells with an average module power of 240W. This type of module has been certified by TÜV Rheinland in 10/2013 according to IEC standards 61215 and 61730. A higher performing 250W NICE module will be certified at the end of 2014.
Vincent Industrie sold two fully automated 30 MWp lines manufacturing 60-cell modules (one every four minutes). The first of these two production lines was installed at Energy Industrie in Bousalem, Tunisia and started producing NICE modules (see the video of the production line running) The second line is being installed in Algeria and will start production in the beginning of 2015.

 

Next generation NICE module assembly lines with a targeted capacity of 50 – 60 MW/y and 100 - 120MW/y are currently under development at Vincent Industrie. These lines will feature a more advanced automation, with scope for running several lines in parallel in order to achieve the required capacity.