Exciting but challenging times in the world of PV.
These are exciting times in the world of PV but challenging times to secure federal government research funds. First Solar has installed over 8 GW of CdTe PV modules and Solar Frontier has a 900 MW CuInGaSe2 plant in Japan and is considering siting a manufacturing facility in New York. Ascent Solar, Dow Chemical, Global Solar, MiaSole and Stion are all shipping CuInGaSe2 PV products.
However, silicon modules dominate the global market providing ~90% of the over 40GW annual production and Panasonic Corporation announced that it has achieved a record conversion efficiency of 25.6% (cell area*3: 143.7 cm²) in its HIT(R) solar cells:
IEC was the first to publish device results on this structure in 1997.
However, with all the positives in PV, there is an uncertainty in the future for universities that support these core technologies and keep the pipeline of PV trained people full since:
- FPACE & some Next Gen programs are ending
- Bay Area Photovoltaic Consortium ends ~ 1.5 years
- No new programs on the horizon
This is a critical issue since c-Si and thin film technologies will dominate the PV market for at least the next 20 years or more and university R&D is needed to support the development of emerging manufacturing facilities and to provide the science and engineering for the next generation device structures, module design and the pathway to 50 year lifetimes.
On the research front at IEC, there have been many exciting developments:
- Bill Shafarman and his team have been making steady progress on a new front-wall CuInGaSe2 device structure utilizing sub micron CIGS on a glass TCO superstrate as well as developing a fundamental understanding of the reaction of Cu, In, & Ga precursors in H2Se/H2S.
- Brian McCandless who leads our program on Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 has made significant progress on growing and characterizing the material and electronic properties of single crystals of Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 and is now making solar cells on the crystals.
- Steve Hegedus and his team have fabricated an all back contact c-Si heterojunction device with efficiency over 20% using a low temperature process and is making significant progress on laser fired contacts to an n-type wafer and laser ablation/passivation for the isolation of the p-n fingers.
Finally, I want to wish Erten Eser an enjoyable retirement - we will miss your expertise at IEC.
Robert W. Birkmire
Institute of Energy Conversion
University of Delaware