POWER December 2021 - 18

SOLAR POWER
New Materials, Efficiency
Upgrades Advancing Solar
Technologies
Courtesy: Shutterstock
The growth curve for solar power continues its upward trajectory, thanks to
technologies such as perovskites, heterojunction solar cells, and energy storage
systems designed to complement rooftop solar. New inverters and racking
solutions are making solar installations more efficient, helping extract more
energy from the sun's rays.
Darrell Proctor
T
here is no shortage of technological
advancements in the solar power
sector,
contributing to renewed
growth in the industry after the coronavirus
pandemic paused several projects.
More countries are turning to solar as
they establish decarbonization targets,
more companies are setting sustainability
goals, and the push for home improvements-an
offshoot of the pandemic-
has supported residential rooftop solar.
Researchers have continued to develop
more-efficient solar energy equipment,
and the market is supporting
innovation. A two-year extension of the
26% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar
power, passed by the U.S. Congress earlier
this year, has provided more impetus
for homeowners and businesses interested
in adding solar.
And an important factor in the growth
of solar power may not be a better solar
panel or inverter, but rather deployment
of energy storage to support solar development.
" The most pressing technology
issue for the solar industry at this time
is securing safe, reliable, and low-cost
storage, " said Suvi Sharma, founder of
Solaria, a California-based solar technology
and installation company.
" Solar
has become very economically viable in
most parts of the country. It's ramping
up and getting installed in virtually every
18
state. It's competitive with the grid. But
the one thing solar cannot do is produce
energy at all times of the day. To get the
maximum value out of solar, we need to
store the power that solar systems generate,
whether the system deployed is
residential, commercial, or utility-scale. "
Extending the ITC also benefited energy
storage systems. If these systems
get at least 75% of their charge from an
onsite renewable energy system, they
are eligible for the tax credit as well. And
government officials are well aware of
the need to bring down costs to support
more solar deployment; the U.S. Department
of Energy (DOE) earlier this year
set a target of reducing the cost of solar
energy by 60% within the next decade,
and pledging millions of dollars to support
new solar power technologies.
Collaborative Efforts
Partnerships and collaborations are
supporting the rapid pace of technology
advancements in the solar sector.
Researchers at the National Renewable
Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Colorado
School of Mines in October announced
they are applying a new technique to
identify
defects
in
silicon
solar
cells
that reduce efficiency. The groups said
the lessons learned from their research
" could lead to improvements in the way
manufacturers strengthen their products
www.powermag.com
against what is known as light-induced
degradation [LID]. "
The groups said LID reduces the efficiency
of silicon solar cells by about 2%,
adding up to a " significant drop in power
output over the 30- to 40-year lifespan
of the technology deployed in the field. "
Silicon solar cells make up more than
96% of the current global market. The
most common semiconductor used to
manufacture these cells is made from
boron-doped silicon, which is susceptible
to LID, so manufacturers have looked
for ways to stabilize the solar modules.
NREL researchers said that without
an understanding of the defects at the
atomic level, it's impossible to predict
the stability of those modules.
" Some of the modules are stabilized
completely. Some of them are only halfstabilized, "
said Abigail Meyer, a Ph.D.
candidate at Mines and a researcher at
NREL. Meyer is lead author of a paper
about efforts to determine the source
of the LID phenomenon. Her co-authors
include researchers from both Mines
and NREL, among them Paul Stradins,
a principal scientist and a project leader
in silicon photovoltaic research at NREL.
Stradins said the problem of LID has
been studied for decades, but the exact
microscopic nature of what causes the
degradation has not been determined.
Researchers have concluded, through
POWER | December 2021
http://www.powermag.com

POWER December 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of POWER December 2021

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POWER December 2021 - SCover1
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