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Themeninfos – A compact guide to energy research

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Organisches Solarzellmodul
© Fraunhofer ISE
New concepts and production technologies
Themeninfo II/2011
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Innovations in Photovoltaics

New developments make it possible: solar power can be produced increasingly cheaply. The solar power industry is close to achieving grid parity, which means that it will no longer cost more to generate solar power than the current consumer price. Researchers are presenting solar cells with ever-higher efficiencies and new records are constantly being set, only to be broken again. The series of successes is one of the clearest indications for the rapid progress being made in photovoltaics.

This Themeninfo brochure provides an insight into the current research and development landscape in the photovoltaics sector and presents new solar cell concepts and processing technologies. Some of them are still at the research stage while others are already entering production. Accelerated by cost pressures and lowering feed-in tariffs, the production technologies and processes are undergoing a transformation: there is a greater focus on more rational and cost-effective processes and, in a highly competitive market, the manufacturers are responding to customer needs with thinner wafers and lighter modules.

In this highly dynamic industry, research and development are taking on considerable importance. For instance, they are helping to ensure that industrial production is becoming more efficient and cheaper. The range of solar cells is also becoming more diverse: in addition to crystalline, amorphous and multicrystalline silicon cells, various thin-film technologies are now available. New cell developments have almost reached market maturity or are still being developed and tested out. A larger proportion of the light spectrum can be absorbed: multiple cells use several spectral ranges and convert a correspondingly higher proportion of the incident light into electricity.

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With the aim of lowering production costs and increasing module efficiencies, the “Photovoltaic Innovation Alliance” is promoting research and development projects. Through this funding initiative, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety are spending 100 million euros on application-based research until 2013. As part of the “Solar Valley cluster”, the German government and the federal states are spending a further 75 million euros on research and development along the entire value added chain. This commitment will help the industry produce even more powerful and durable modules in future that also work profitably with reduced feed-in tariffs. In the long term, the aim is to successfully increase the proportion of renewables in the electricity mix.

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