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DOE scientists' discovery may boost solar cells' energy output by up to 40%

Lucas Mearian | July 7, 2016
The photovoltaic cells are easy to create -- and inexpensive

"However, it's difficult to bet against crystalline silicon technology in the next few years," Shiao said. "While developments in the lab can show a material's potential, the real challenge is driving commercial production at a high yield, low cost and with product reliability and corporate bankability that can match the 20- to 30-year asset life for a solar PV system."

Amit Ronen, director of George Washington University's Solar Institute, said perovskite-based solar cells are a "particularly promising technology that could one day generate much more electricity per photon than the silicon-based solar cells that dominate the marketplace today."

"However, economics drive solar uptake rates, not necessarily theoretical efficiency rates," Ronen said. "Perovskites have a long way to go before they can emerge from the lab bench to compete with hundreds of billions of dollars of silicon-based manufacturing capacity and a product that is already less expensive today than fossil fuel generation in most cases."

Ronen said that continued government funding of cutting edge research, like what Berkley Labs is doing, "is essential" to helping the private sector bring new innovations and breakthroughs to the marketplace "that can provide Americans with cheaper electricity and the world with cleaner power supplies."

"Opening up electricity markets to new entrants is also critical to getting perovskite-based cells to be part of our nation's mix," Ronen continued. "Even with today's solar cells outcompeting fossil fuels, a host of legal, regulatory, and technical hurdles continue to slow our urgently needed transition to a cleaner and more distributed energy system."

 

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