We present a novel ZnO:Al fabrication process consisting of room-temperature vacuum sputtering followed by an excimer laser annealing (ELA). The ELA treatment improves the optical transmission of the films, and the film resistivities (<1 mΩ·cm) remain stable or improve with increasing laser fluence up to 0.6 J/cm2, as the carrier density increases but the carrier mobility is degraded. This process is followed by a standard dilute HCl chemical texturing step, and produces substrates with suitable texture, conductivity, and transparency properties for thinfilm photovoltaic applications. Substrates resulting from this process display elevated haze levels (80% at 600 nm and 50% at 800 nm) after the wet-chemical etching step. Such substrates have been used to make single junction hydrogenated nanocrystalline silicon solar cells, and an increase in the short-circuit current of up to 2.2 mA/cm2 is observed compared to a substrate deposited by a standard room-temperature sputtering + wet-etch process. This gain is primarily due to increased photo-response in the red due to improved light-scattering, as at wavelengths greater than 600 nm, a gain in photocurrent of up to 1.7 mA/cm2 is observed.