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Powering Solar Panels: The Importance Of PV Ribbons
January 28, 2022 by

In 2019, the value of the worldwide PV ribbon (photovoltaic ribbon) market was just a shade under $795 million. Cut to 2026, and this figure is expected to zoom past the $1300 million mark – with the CAGR for this period expected to be more than 7.2%. The rapid growth of the renewables sector in general, and the solar power industry in particular, is driving up the demand for quality-assured and high-performance PV Ribbons across the globe. We will here explain how these PV ribbons maximise the operational efficiency of solar panels:

PV Ribbons & The Role Of Copper In Them

PV ribbons lie at the heart of photovoltaic solar cells and panels. Also known as solar ribbons or PV tabbing ribbons, these are highly durable hot-tip copper conductors that are installed in the solar panels. PV ribbons typically come with solder-coating – and they are used to establish & maintain the interconnection between the solar cells.

The front bus bars of a solar cell have to be securely connected with the rear-end bus bars of the next cell. PV ribbons are used to create these series connections. In order to prevent oxidation and losses during the transit and storage of current, the surface of the ribbons are soldered (the thickness of the solder layer is around 0.025mm).

The oxygen-free copper wires used in PV ribbons are central to their efficiency. The yield strength of ‘dead soft’ copper is low – ensuring that there are very little chances of cell breakage during the soldering process. Since the copper cross-section is high, the ‘wattage per module’ figure is also boosted (since the electrons can freely move from one cell to another). The copper base of the PV ribbons ensures top-class flexibility, conductivity, mechanical stability and environmental fatigue-resistance. Manufacturers implement precision engineering technologies to come up with PV ribbons that are customisable and deliver value.

Why Is The Popularity Of PV Ribbons Growing?

PV ribbons are manufactured in a streamlined and eco-friendly manner, with the help of PV ribbon lines. The copper ribbon is thoroughly cleaned and annealed, after which the hot-dip tinning (followed by spooling) takes place. Manufacturers take due care to maintain the requisite quality control standards.

PV ribbons are increasingly being used in solar panels across the globe. The efficiency, reliability and overall user-friendly nature of ribbons contribute to their soaring popularity. Expertly designed PV ribbons allow the usage of thin wafers, minimise electric resistance, and ensure that the solar cell yields are not compromised in any way. As a result, the maximum power from each module is obtained.

Maximisation Of Solar Cell Output With PV Ribbons

The flat PV ribbons used in solar panels have a width of ~2mm, and are manufactured with OFHC (oxygen-free high conductivity) copper. Silver plating can also be done on the ribbons, to boost the latter’s overall reflectivity and conductivity.

The main material used to manufacture PV ribbons is copper. Premium-grade copper is used to ensure that there are no efficiency losses that affect the performance of the solar panels. The PV ribbons ease the process of current-collection from the PV cells, and its transfer & distribution over the network. As a result, the total power output from solar panels is optimised.

In this context, the importance of using ‘dead soft’ copper for making efficient PV ribbons needs to be highlighted. The ribbons, made with highly pliable and soft-quality copper, are extremely flexible – and they can be soldered to the solar cells easily. There are no chances of the PV ribbons or the cells getting damaged.

PV ribbons typically have smooth tin coating, with the required level of thickness tolerance. The spool size of the soft PV ribbons can vary as well. As technologies are evolving, manufacturers are coming up with PV ribbons powered by computer-based process controls as well.

For all their advantages, PV ribbons can fail to deliver the requisite performance & efficiency, if they are not chosen with due care. We will turn our attention to the key attributes of these ribbons in the next section.

Features To Watch Out For In PV Ribbons

PV ribbons made with copper as the base material deliver the best performance. The alloys (e.g., tin alloy) used in the manufacturing process adhere to ASTM standards and other relevant quality parameters. We will here highlight the most important features of high-quality PV ribbons.

  • Yield Strength – Since the expansion rates of silicon and copper are different (both during heating & cooling), additional stress is created at the joints. To minimise risks of cell breakage and resultant panel failures, PV ribbons of low yield-strength are used. These maximise performance and ensure optimal ribbon cross-section functionality.

  • Camber – During the manufacturing process of PV ribbons, managing the camber (which indicates the straightness of the wire) is an absolute must. Unless the camber in the wires that are used for solar cell interconnections is minimised, problems can crop up during the stringing stage. PV ribbons with optimised camber ensure seamless rolling & winding, apart from maintaining the coating thickness.

  • Elongation & Winding – The longevity and reliability of PV ribbons are important parameters of their overall quality. The best tabbing ribbons have excellent ductility (i.e., high elongation), along with robust temperature cycling-resistance properties. The module life of high-elongation wires is excellent too.

    The winding process of PV ribbons also has to be managed carefully, in order to meet the precise buyer requirements (and solar panel specifications). There should not be any tangles or alterations in the wire tension. That, in turn, would ensure that the payoff from the PV ribbons is optimised.

  • Solder Coating – The interconnections and bonding types vary from one solar panel to another. As such, manufacturers prepare the solder coating of the PV ribbons to boost the efficiency and usability of the latter. The solder composition has to be uniform, while the thickness of the coating also has to be monitored.

The Sustainability Factor

With growing depletion of the world’s non-renewable energy resources, the demand for sustainable applications is at an all-time high. Going forward, the renewables industry will scale unprecedented heights – and the solar energy sector will be right at the forefront.

PV ribbons enhance the sustainability of solar panels and cells, thanks to their low operational and maintenance costs. Since the ribbons and PV technologies are lightweight & small, these applications can be used practically anywhere.

Looking Forward

As environmental awareness is growing and the demand for clean, alternative energy sources is skyrocketing, the market for PV Ribbons is expanding. Technological innovation is also playing an increasingly important role in this sector – with manufacturers striving to design PV Ribbons with enhanced efficiency, minimal resistive losses and greater reliability. The growth possibilities in this sector are enormous – and it will be very interesting to track how PV Ribbons continue to evolve in the foreseeable future.

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