The global thin-film photovoltaic (TFPV) market is poised for explosive growth during the next 10 years, an industry analyst firm predicted Wednesday.

Low cost, low weight, ease of manufacturing and success in roof, wall and window applications is driving an industry that is forecast to reach $7.2 billion by 2015, compared to slightly more than $1 billion now, according to a new report from NanoMarkets LC.

Already, manufacturers such as Sanyo and Fuji Electric are ramping up production and building more plants with more than 100-megawatt capacities, the report said.

The prediction comes at a time when conventional PV is gaining traction in more mainstream applications.

"With the worldwide rise in energy prices, PV prices are now closer to general energy prices than ever before," the report said. "Once they reach a point that is close to parity, PV is well set to break out of its niche application status and become a major force to be reckoned with, not just a few percentage points of worldwide energy consumption."

In the past, a shortage of the silicon used to make traditional PV drove up prices and hampered its widespread use. Although now more abundant, crystalline silicon is still expensive because of the limited supply and numerous processing steps needed for its manufacture.

"Because TFPV costs less that conventional PV, it is TFPV that is most likely to reach "take off" prices first, all the more so, because at least some TFPV materials have more potential than crystalline silicon for cost reductions," the report said.

TFPV can be manufactured using printing machines. Printing PV could potentially lower capital costs by 75 percent, the report found, with reduced waste and increased output.

The value of the printed THPV market could top $3 billion during the next 10 years. It accounted for only 5 percent of the overall PV market a few years ago but that figure is expected to grow to 35 percent by 2015.

The report predicted that TFPV won't be impacted even if silicon should flood the market because of its low cost and lightweight nature, which allows it to be applied easily to curved and non-planar surfaces. Its weight also makes its rooftop application much easier than heavier conventional panels.

The report shows declining rates of market growth during the end of the forecast period. The report acknowledges that PV, along with the overall clean tech industry, has taken on a type of "fad" quality in light of the current clean tech boom spurred by environmental concerns and the high cost of fossil fuels, which sparkled similar interest during the oil crisis of the 1970s.

"Given the current fervor with which firms and investors are pursuing high-tech opportunities, the boom seems just too hot not to cool down," the report said.