The Terawatt era: better, more aesthetic and custom-made solar panels
Over the years, solar power has proven its value in the energy transition. Solar technology has rapidly improved, prices have dropped and module efficiency has increased tremendously. To reach the long awaited terawatt era (surpassing the 1 terawatt/hour solar energy threshold), the focus is being placed on improving existing technologies, increasing their flexibility and making them more efficient, more aesthetic and adaptable in size and colour, while, at the same time ensuring the greatest level of sustainability, from cradle to grave.
Increasing PV solar panel sustainability
As we move towards the “terawatt era”, EnergyVille is also investigating methods to repair, reuse and recycle PV modules. As the use of PV in electricity production increases, resource efficiency is becoming an increasingly critical factor for the long-term success of the sectors. The circular economy and renewable, clean energy must go hand in hand if we are to be able to safeguard a truly sustainable transition to a carbon-neutral future.
Prediction is key
As the share of PV in the energy system continues to grow, accurately predicting the energy yield of solar cells and modules becomes ever more important. To support PV power plant operators, for example, EnergyVille has developed a bifacial PV
systems simulation framework that can accurately calculate the energy yield of bifacial PV systems. The new simulation framework guarantees high precision. It not only computes the energy yield of the individual cells and modules based on local and varying meteorological conditions, but also takes into account double-sided illumination and the way this is influenced by module frames, system component geometry, and varying the albedo. A first commercial model will appear on the market in 2020.
Greater efficiency due to improved hardware
Bifacial crystalline silicon PV modules
To harvest as much energy as possible, EnergyVille is looking into bifacial crystalline silicon PV modules. Bifacial modules accept light from both sides, making possible their combination with a transparent or reflecting backside of a PV panel. EnergyVille takes these highly efficient bifacial cells as a starting point and combines them with optimised cell metallisation techniques and multi-wire interconnection technologies. This has resulted in a record-setting efficiency of 23.2% using bifacial n-pert solar cells.
Passivated contacts are the next step in optimising bifacial silicon PV. The first cells are expected in the spring of 2020.
Thin film PV modules
In addition to crystalline silicon solar cells and modules, EnergyVille is also focusing on developing thin film PV cells and modules of inorganic-organic perovskite materials, making it possible to create solar cells with a thickness of less than 1 micron (1/100 the diameter of a human hair). Due to their thinness, these solar cells can be semi-transparent, flexible and adaptable in colour, making them ideal for custom-made panels for surfaces such as windows, cars, building elements, etc.
Tandem cells combine conventional silicon cells with perovskite (thin film) cells. Together they can improve energy yield, with a theoretical limit of 40%. This technology has already been scaled up from lab level to 30 x 30 cm modules. EnergyVille is the only research centre in Europe able to make tandem modules up to this size.