New multi-termal, multi-junction architecture holds the key to efficient and cheap electricity generation using commercially available silicon and thin-film solar cells. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by scientists from Clemson and Pennsylvania State Universities.
The researchers claim that efficient management of the flux of solar photons through the solar cells, combined with the use of direct current power sources locally, will result in a boost of energy efficiency and reduction in cost.
Professor Rajendra Singh, and his team, analysed the current trends of the energy market, outlining key limitations and promising solutions, and published their findings in the latest issue of the Journal IEEE. In their study, the team presents photovoltaics to hold the future of the energy sector, as these provide the only way of energy generation, which is sustainable, efficient, does not pollute the environment, does not depend on depleting resources and all this while the investment cost is continuously dropping.
The cumulative capacity of photovoltaics is expected to double in the coming few years, reaching 200GW by year 2015. Nevertheless, limitations and engineering problems still remain apparent, preventing PV systems from becoming commercial on a large scale. Most of the currently installed systems comprise of bulk-silicon solar cells, which have well known thermal and optical limitations, however these seem to be the only commercially viable option right now.
Professor Singh and his team propose that if silicon and thin-film based solar cells are included in a multi-terminal multi-junction architecture, which combines these with cheap and very abundant materials such as copper oxides, the efficiency is likely to increase with as much as 25%.
The only limitation that will remain is the maintenance cost, however with proper management practices and strict control on the manufacturing process, the team suggests that it will be possible to achieve super high efficiency and a very low cost of energy with the conventional silicon-based PV.
In addition, installing the systems locally might be the only solution to many remote areas and small villages that have limited access to electricity. The architecture could also serve as a ‘green’ alternative to old and highly polluting power generating facilities.