Global Photonic Energy Corp. (GPEC), has created a thin-film solar cell that has the ability to provide electricity at grid parity or the cost of traditionally provided electricity.
Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) is a better photovoltaic candidate than silicon reaching 30% or better efficiency. Problem with Gallium Arsenide cells is that they are very expensive to manufacture in large sizes. Instead these cells are used in concentrating solar PV arrays where the sun image is concentrated some 500 times focusing the light onto a small millimeter sized GaAs cell.
Dr. Stephen R. Forrest of the University of Michigan said the breakthrough, presented at the Fall Meeting of the Materials Research Society, is the result of substantially reduced production costs. It is based on a patent-pending invention that reuses the same Gallium Arsenide wafer multiple times to produce solar cells. This unlimited wafer reuse approach to conventional “epitaxial lift off” technology that typically leads to wafer damage, and hence only a very limited number (1 to 2) of wafer reuses, has the potential to reduce the cost of a typical Gallium Arsenide solar cell to below $1 per Watt (peak).
“This exciting development implies that ultra-high efficiency solar cells based on Gallium Arsenide can eventually produce electricity at or below grid parity.” Dr. Forrest stated. “Using integrated solar concentrators and our adhesive-free, cold-weld bonding technology to plastic substrates, we estimate electricity could be produced as low as $0.45 cents per Watt, compared to traditional grid parity of $1 per Watt.”
GPEC is excited by the discovery. With this new discovery, the cost structure is dramatically reduced and can be used in numerous applications. The high efficiency, light weight and flexible solar cells are deployed on roll up plastic sheets. GPEC anticipates their use in spot powering vehicles, mobile military equipment and satellites, and off-grid locations. The company has big plans and want to license its intellectual property in order to commercialize the technology. To date, GPEC has a total of 425 patents.
In a government report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory demonstrates the tremendous potential for solar energy generation in Tennessee. The report estimates the technical potential of solar PV as well as other renewable power sources for the production of electrical power. It is a study of the potential based on renewable resource availability and quality, technical system performance, topographic limitations, environmental, and land-use constraints only. The study does not consider the economic, political or market constraints. In 2010, Tennessee used 103,522 GWh (103,522,000,000 kWh). The report estimates that the total solar potential including rural and urban utility-scale PV as well as roof-top solar would amount to 2,295,918 GWh.
The full report can be found here
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The grid shows that innovations in materials and cell designs will help stabilize module prices at $0.90/W, while the cost of goods sold will fall on account of improved cell efficiencies, cheaper processes and thinner wafers. Among other findings, the report predicts that direct solidification will provide cheaper wafers, and that direct solidification of molten silicon offers the best way toward kerfless wafering (which eliminates losses from sawing). This technology is a top target on the Disruptive PV Technology Grid, with a market size of up to $600 million. 1366 Technologies is the clear leader and is expected to be the first to reach commercialization by 2013, according to Lux Research.
Alternatives to cell efficiency will increase. Anti-reflective and light-trapping coatings are second-tier technologies, but they are among the top targets, with a market size of more than $600 million. These technologies provide cost-effective alternatives for efficiency gains. According to Lux Research, Natcore is the leader in this space with likely commercialization this year.
First Solar and Suntech led in PV module manufacturing in 2011, with both reaching approximately 2 GW of module production, according to Lux Research’s latest Solar Supply Tracker.
Crystalline silicon module prices continue to be at a record low, the report adds. Tier-one manufacturers are selling at around $0.90/W, while tier-two and tier-three manufacturers have sold product at even lower rates in order to burn through their inventories and survive the current market conditions.
The top 10 companies added up to 12.5 GW of module production – 44% of the 2011 total global module production.