Achieving the US government’s decarbonisation target of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035 and zero carbon emissions across the economy by 2050 will require the deployment of record levels of renewable technologies. The most common solar technologies deployed to date are crystalline silicon and cadmium telluride (CdTe), the cost of which has declined markedly in recent years. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Solar Technology (SETO) has said that to meet the 2035 target, solar deployment must double in the next three years and eventually to 100 GW by 2035.
While most developments will use silicon and CdTe, SETO sees potential in emerging technologies such as halide perovskites.
SETO believes that the energy conversion efficiency (PCE) of halide perovskites (more than 25% in single-transition elements and more than 29% in tandem elements with silicon) shows hope. One of the advantages of perovskites is that they can be easily produced in large quantities. However, before perovskites are ready for the commercial markets of the energy sector, significant technological challenges need to be addressed.
A recent report by Energy Focus SETO covers critical technical barriers, pitfalls and opportunities for commercialization, as well as efforts to overcome barriers and challenges to commercialization. It also refers to SETO-funded projects that can be viewed at Solar energy research database.
Barriers to commercialization
One of the main barriers is cost. In order for perovskite to be commercially competitive, its aligned cost of electricity (LCOE) must be competitive with the cost of other technologies. And due to the fact that the cost of silicon and CdTe modules is declining and warranty periods are increasing, it will be difficult for perovskite to compete on an LCOE basis.
Evidence of the reliability of the system will also be needed to ensure that financial institutions support projects that use perovskite modules. The scheme of these problems is shown in Figure 1.
“As researchers continue to develop perovskites, there are lessons to be learned from the fate of other photovoltaic technologies. SETO is focused on helping perovskite photovoltaic companies avoid these pitfalls and encourage innovation to prepare the technology for the market and accelerate the deployment of solar energy. ” Dr. Lenny Zinker, Program Manager for Photovoltaic Engineering, Office of Solar Technology, U.S. Department of Energy.
Strength of module and cell
Durability is the biggest technological risk for PV perovskite. In order for the LCOE to approach the 2030 SETO target of 0.02 kWh, perovskite PV must last at least 20 years in the field, which will require improving its ability to withstand different environmental conditions. A lot of testing is required, but today’s tests focus on commercialized photovoltaic technologies (Si, CdTe, etc.) and are unlikely to be able to detect all failure modes relevant to perovskite modules in the field.
Existing tests may also be excessive or contribute to irrelevant or uncharacteristic failure modes of perovskite devices. SETO has published some minimum durability indicators, which, if implemented, will be strong evidence that a prototype perovskite photovoltaic device is ready to enter the initial stage of production. To this end, SETO is funding significant work on perovskite strength as well as the development of test standards.
Efficiency on a scale
Efficiency, often considered a strong factor in perovskite, requires significant improvements for large-area devices before they are ready for the commercial arena. While standardized form factor cells and modules for perovskite PV have not yet been completed, standards will become a critical prerequisite for scaling the entire industry beyond the original demonstration projects.
To promote industry standardization and communication, SETO promotes collaboration between academia, national laboratories and industry, with the aim of bringing diverse perspectives and experiences to address common challenges, accelerate learning cycles and facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills. Industrial consortia like PACT and Production of advanced perovskites (MAP) in the USA the consortium allows companies to connect and share best practices in the industry.
The last major technical hurdle to commercialization is the achievement of high performance with a narrow distribution of efficiency modules. Barriers to process control and output are often underestimated, and perovskite solar cells have not yet demonstrated extensive process flexibility in the laboratory. Cost-effective application processes should allow for small changes in factors such as tool application conditions, application environment, and ink composition.
SETO focuses on process management in perovskite projects throughout its portfolio, ensuring that changes in performance or efficiency are statistically significant and reliable in terms of process, while funding the development of processes that can be more easily monitored as they increase.
The ability of perovskite photovoltaic technologies to provide financing to investors with low interest rates may be even more significant than the technical challenges of commercializing perovskite photovoltaic batteries.
Funding will be needed for large-scale production lines and deployment projects. Banking capacity is directly related to financiers ’confidence that (1) technical problems have been resolved, (2) funded assets will run long enough to provide the desired return on investment, and (3) liability for product failure and warranty claims are low. SETO’s top priority is to ensure compliance with banking and durability standards.
These challenges faced by perovskite technology make it uncertain when and when it can achieve deployment on a gigawatt scale. At the same time, there are many different applications that can support higher costs in dollars per watt and longevity issues, including transportation, building integrated photovoltaic batteries, military operations, aerospace and the Internet of Things. To scale the perovskite industry will require significant capital, which will appear only if investors and financiers are confident in the profitability of perovskite producers and the long-term durability of perovskite module technology.
The sustainable growth of the perovskite industry depends on avoiding these pitfalls and requires patient and prudent investments that are commensurate with the timing and scale of progress required to implement this technology in products.
SETO supports a wide range of perovskite startups at different stages of development through various programs, as SETO can support sustainable investments in perovskite photovoltaic spaces by providing non-diluting capital to promising commercial structures at an early stage. Startups that are further in the product development cycle and closer to pilot production are encouraged to apply for funding through the SETO Incubator program.
In general, the possibilities of perovskites as solar technology are great. It has the potential to transform into a highly efficient, low-cost modular technology for the commercial deployment of the energy sector, with throughput speeds and payback periods exceeding modern photovoltaic technologies. SETO encourages members of the perovskite community to increase the size of the device, demonstrate appropriate durability outdoors and make processes robust to harness the potential of perovskite in the solar sector.
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