His presentation showed that BOM (bill of materials) and equipment costs are the most costly production components for PV. He posed the question: If the facility is given for free, does PV really save costs per watt produced? His answer was not likely. The shipping, labor and power costs are all factors that will vary depending upon site location, and the cost of the facility is minor in comparison to BOM and equipment costs.
Same applies when considering building a new PV facility versus retrofitting an existing facility, like an old semiconductor facility. In some cases, building a new facility may actually be cheaper than the costs of retrofitting due to the removal of equipment, re-engineering (as the facility is most likely over designed for solar), etc.
"The best way for PV to succeed is to design fabs for flexibility,” Weinzerl said.
As there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for solar, custom equipment, retrofits and automation will be key areas for gigawatt scale production.