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21 Dec 2023

Could a new type of solar panel be the answer to cheap electricity?

Anna Dearden
Home Sector Specialist
blogPost

Within the evolving landscape of renewable energy, a significant breakthrough in solar panel development has emerged. One that could potentially revolutionise the solar panel industry by offering a path to more affordable electricity. 

seralize


This development revolves around a new type of solar panel, utilising perovskite-silicon tandem photovoltaics. Sounds fancy, right? Let’s break it down into something easily understandable.


The breakthrough of perovskite


Perovskite is a class of materials with a specific crystal structure that has been combined with traditional silicon to create what’s known as ‘tandem cells\. This development offers an unprecedented leap in solar panel efficiency. 


Researchers and companies, including UK's Oxford PV and South Korea's Hanwha Qcells, are leading this surge in solar technology. These tandem cells are designed to absorb a broader spectrum of sunlight, offering at least 20% more power than silicon cells alone, and potentially much more. 


The theoretical maximum efficiency of such tandem cells is around 45% — a vast improvement over the current limit of silicon cells​​​​.


The challenges of stability and production


While the excitement around perovskite is clear to anyone within the solar panel industry, it’s important to remember the technology is not without its challenges. 


Perovskite materials are known to degrade more quickly than silicon when exposed to moisture, heat, and light. Addressing these stability issues is crucial for the future commercial success of these panels. 


Moreover, scaling up production to match the efficiency of silicon cells, which currently dominate 95% of the market, remains a hurdle​​ that researchers will have to soon overcome.


AI and Manufacturing Efficiency


A recent leap in the manufacture of these panels comes from the use of artificial intelligence (AI). Researchers have developed AI systems to optimise the production process of perovskite layers, which is crucial for the efficiency of these solar cells.


This advancement could significantly reduce the cost and complexity of producing high-grade perovskite layers, making the technology more accessible and commercially viable​​.


Economic and environmental impacts


The promise of perovskite-silicon tandem cells lies not only in their higher efficiency but also in their potential for lower costs and reduced environmental impact. In fact, researchers from The Technical University of Berlin have found that the perovskite-silicon has a 6 - 18% less environmental impact than its silicon counterpart


With the current Brandenburg factory of Oxford PV, the production capacity is up to 50 MW per year, but scaling up to gigawatt levels could dramatically reduce manufacturing costs​​.


Political drivers and consumer appeal


The push for perovskite technology is also politically motivated. In Europe, it aligns with the goal of reducing dependence on Russian gas supplies, while in the U.S., it supports efforts to decrease reliance on Chinese PV supply chains. 


For consumers — particularly those with limited rooftop space — the higher power density of tandem cells is a significant advantage, offering more watts per square metre. This feature is particularly appealing for powering increasingly electrified homes​​.


Are you ready for the paradigm shift in solar energy?


At SpotDif, we remain committed to keeping you informed about the latest solar panel news and developments. 


Whether you're considering installing solar panels or just curious about the latest innovations, we're here to help you compare solar panels and find the best deals in this rapidly evolving market.

author
Anna Dearden
Home Sector Specialist
Combining in-depth research with an interest in all things home improvement, I aim to keep SpotDif readers up to date with interior design trends, renewable energy options, and more.
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