Researchers Investigate Ways for High-Efficiency Photovoltaics to Become Major Electricity Source

Achievement date: 
2013
Outcome/accomplishment: 

University of Delaware researchers affiliated with the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST), which is headquartered at Arizona State University, have investigated ways to lower total photovoltaic (PV) electricity cost, explored opportunities to develop high-efficiency PV systems, and estimated required efficiency-price ranges for different types of PV modules.

Impact/benefits: 

Quantitative analyses in this study highlighted the importance of high-efficiency PV systems in reducing total system costs and generating electricity from the sun. The study quantified the potential contribution of high-efficiency PV, based on advanced technology, to realizing a substantial share of U.S. electricity generation; it also demonstrated how government efforts are needed to facilitate this target and further spur the PV industry to achieve sustainable progress without relying on large government subsidies.

Explanation/Background: 

Research and development (R&D) activities can lower PV energy cost in two ways: (1) by improving device or system performance, and (2) by reducing manufacturing or assembly costs. The R&D opportunities for high-efficiency modules are based on solar cells of different materials, including silicon (Si), Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS), cadmium telluride (CdTe), Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), and other III–V materials. These opportunities present great potential for high-efficiency modules to contribute to lowering PV energy costs. The opportunities cover multiple levels of improvements, including conditions that affect module efficiency in long-term operation and span the range of technologies being developed by other QESST researchers.