The solar PV industry rose up over the past seven-plus years largely due to massive capacity expansions, but scale alone won’t pave the way for solar PV in the coming years.

What’s also needed are new technologies and methods to improve the energy performance of devices, and the efficiency of the systems around them, all ultimately helping to lower costs from upstream to downstream for solar PV.We’re getting close to the cost of coal,” noted Frank van Mierlo, CEO of 1366 Technologies, pointing to Austin Energy’s recent power-purchase deal for less than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

How these new solar PV technology innovations will overlay with PV manufacturing operations over the next couple of years is the topic being tackled by a panel of experts, including Benner and van Mierlo, at the July 7th SEMI PV Advanced Manufacturing Forum at Intersolar North America in San Francisco.

Most of the technology innovations in silicon-based solar PV will build on the existing infrastructure in place, a trend confirmed by the latest version of the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaic.

That’s also the area of focus for 1366 Technologies and Crystal Solar: ultra-thin silicon wafers just tens of microns thick, which require far less starting material and fewer associated costs such as energy, consumables, and subsequent waste post-processing.

Several of these panelists agree on the need for diligence on these incremental improvements in silicon PV rather than new leaps ahead. Driven by the broader goals of competing with the cost of coal, as well as the DOE’s $1/W SunShot targets for total installed solar costs, it can be difficult to appreciate the individual contributions from improvements in silicon, cell efficiencies, balance-of-system technologies, etc.

People tend to underestimate incremental change,” mused Marcie Black, president and co-founder of Bandgap Engineering, a firm whose nanowires can boost solar cellsefficiencies by roughly 1 percent absolute, swapping out only the surface texturing step of the cell manufacturing process.