Photovoltaic Posts

Photovoltaic Innovations: Future Challenges

Photovoltaic Innovations: Future Challenges

Despite the decrease in demand that the photovoltaic market is currently experiencing, universities and other institutions continue to invest in research and development in the field of solar PV. The sector is driven by the desire to achieve better performing and more efficient technologies that can help produce more green electricity than ever before. We will introduce some of the most promising innovations that will, in the near or far future, enter the solar PV market and help us optimise our environmentally conscious behaviour.

Interview with Kumar Gaurav: CO-Founder Sun Bazaar

India´s first solar marketplace shall aim to provide a cloud based trading platform to the buyers and sellers in the B2B industry along with the marketing and analytics features. The online solar marketplace, “Solarbiz” shall also be accessible to end users with the vision to ease the gap of discovery and end-to-end service. Kumar Gaurav, Co-Founder of SunBazaar, answered some general questions for us to provide an inside look into the indian solar market and the impact of SunBazaar.

Solar Energy is a Finally a Net Energy Producer

There has always been somewhat of an unsaid irony that so much fossil-fuel emitting energy is required to create solar panels, a fossil-fuel free energy source. Recently, research from Standford University has found that the amount of clean energy produced from already installed solar panels is finally exceeding the amount of energy that was required to manufacture the panels.

There are high energy costs to purify silicon.

There are high energy costs to purify silicon.

The amount of solar energy produced from all solar sources such as residential, industrial, and commercial, was compared to the energetic costs of manufacturing and installing PV systems as well as the costs required to maintain the systems. Michael Dale, a postdoctoral fellow from Stanford’s Global Climate Energy Project (GCEP) estimated that the world will reach net energy benefit by 2015 and at latest, 2020. Just five years ago, the manufacturing process was using 75% more energy than it actually produced. That value has decreased immensely due to continually increasing efficiency in the production of solar cells.

The manufacturing process of a solar panel can be heavily energy intensive. Approximately 90% of solar modules on the market are silicon-based. To extract silicon, silica rock must be melted at over 1500°C, often using coal-fired plants. Afterwards, the pure silicon must be melted again to obtain a crystalline structure, with an average purity of 99.9999%. Nevertheless, technology has improved and the process of making a solar cell has become more efficient. Thinner silicon wafers and less highly refined material for silicon feedstock are now used, while less expensive material is being lost throughout manufacturing process. The use of other elements for solar thin films such as copper, zinc, tin, and carbon can also be improved. The energy required to produce solar panels will likely continue to decrease over time.

The solar industry is still aiming primarily at reducing financial costs rather than energetic costs but there are several ways to reduce the latter. An easy solution is to place more PV installations in regions with greater solar resources. Using less material or switching to panels that have lower energy costs than silicon cells are also viable options. Other existing cells based on cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium diselenide can be also used. Together with silicon cells, these solar cells make up over 99% of the current market. Overall, Dale forsees a decline in the energy costs to manufacture panels, more durable panels, and more efficient conversion of sunlight with new technologies. Net energy production measurements should be taken into account in current and future renewable technologies to produce effective energy solutions. GCEP is also looking to apply these measurements to storage technologies and wind energy.

You can also see Stanford’s video on this topic

Source: Phys.org; Environmental Science and Technology

Photovoltaic in the USA: California

State: California California Renewables PV Solar USA
Area: 423,970 km²
Population: 37.2 Million
Share of renewable energies in the electricity consumption: 20.6%
Installed capacity of photovoltaic: 1,406 MW
In South-West of the USA lies the most densely populated state of the country – California – with more than 37,2 inhabitants. The capital of California is Sacramento. The biggest city of California is by far Los Angeles with around 3,8 million residents. Additionally, San Francisco counts to the most popular cities of California.

Expected increase in the number of big-scale PV projects

Expected increase in the number of big-scale PV projects

The biggest photovoltaic market in the United States

California is the 8th biggest economy in the world. Many institutes and universities of this region have focused their research on renewable energies. At the moment the installed capacity of photovoltaic systems amounts to 1,406 MW. However, there are altogether 15 GW of installations in the planning or building phase. Within this capacity there are mostly big-scale projects of 1MWp or more.

Within the USA, California is the biggest market for photovoltaic. Next to the biggest installed capacity of PV, there are numerous factories and manufacturing plants of photovoltaic modules and systems.

Directives for energy providers of renewable energies

California has imposed directives on its energy providers, determining the share of renewable energies in their total electricity production. Until 2020, the energy concerns have to produce 33% of its electricity for renewable energy sources. There are two intermediate levels defined: 20% has to be reached already by 2013, and 25% by 2016. This directive is called Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

However, the energy providers can partially cover the required percentage by purchasing renewable energy from electrical power station through the so-called Tradable Renewable Energy Credits (TRECs). Nonetheless, the share of energy bought in such way cannot exceed 25% by 2013 and 10% by 2017 of the entire renewable energies’ share required by RPS.

Feed-In-Tariffs and financial support

PV and Solar is also existent in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. Photography by Niewiroski Jr.

The Feed-in-Tarifs (FiTs) in California, determined by the California Public Utilities Comission (CPUC), allow the private owners of renewable energy power stations with the capacity up to 3 megawatts to enter FIT contracts of 10, 15 and 20 years. The produced electricity will be sold on the basis of market-determined price – Re-Mat (Renewable Market Adjustment Tariff). The starting bid lies at $89.23 (€68.2234) per megawatt hour (MWh).

Public energy producers, which have more than 75,000 customers, have to additionally implement the feed in tariffs programmes until 1st July 2013 according to the given directives. These compensation tariffs are available until the cumulative capacity of 750MW (equally for private as well as public generating plants) is reached. Bio-energy has its own allowed capacity of 250MW, but only from the private users.

 Further programmes and campaigns

The Go Solar California! campaign supports all sorts of solar energy generating plants through various  discounts and subsidies with a total budget of $ 3.3 billion (€ 2.52 billion).  Additionally there are numerous financing possibilities for renewable energies offered by different programmes and institutions.

On top of that many cities, communes and regions in California offer countless discounts as well as aid and support schemes for renewable energies.

Series Photovoltaic in the USA:

1. Photovoltaic in the United States of America (USA) – An Introduction
2. California
3. New Jersey

Sources : DSIRE, Treehugger, Acore.org

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