An Analysis of the Cost and Performance of Photovoltaic Systems as a Function of Module Area

Kelsey Horowitz, Ran Fu, Michael Woodhouse, Timothy Silverman, Xingshu Sun, Muhammad Alam

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


We investigate the potential effects of module area on the cost and performance of photovoltaic systems. Applying a bottom-up methodology, we analyzed the costs associated with mc-Si and thin-film modules and systems as a function of module area. We calculate a potential for savings of up to $0.04/W, $0.10/W, and $0.13/W in module manufacturing costs for mc-Si, CdTe, and CIGS respectively, with large area modules. We also find that an additional $0.05/W savings in balance-of-systems costs may be achieved. However, these savings are dependent on the ability to maintain efficiency and manufacturing yield as area scales. Lifetime energy yield must also be maintained to realize reductions in the levelized cost of energy. We explore the possible effects of module size on efficiency and energy production, and find that more research is required to understand these issues for each technology. Sensitivity of the $/W cost savings to module efficiency and manufacturing yield is presented. We also discuss non-cost barriers to adoption of large area modules.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages31
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-67006


  • balance-of-systems costs
  • c-Si
  • CdTe
  • CIGS
  • dual-glass
  • large area modules
  • large substrates
  • manufacturing costs
  • photovoltaics
  • solar


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