Forward Look: Overview of Solar PV Collection Technology

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Author profile image for Matthew De La Torre, Vice President of Engineering
  • Matthew De La Torre
  • Vice President of Engineering

A recent article published by the folks at Clean Edge gives a fascinating overview of the advancing solar PV collection materials that are sure to give silicon-based collectors a run for their money.

1. Amorphous Silicon

Amorphous Silicon is the most developed thin-film technologies. However, it is less energy efficient (11 percent versus around 15 to 22 percent for polysilicon), so it requires more area to generate the same amount of energy. Efficiency is a concern when space is constrained (on residential rooftops, for example). However, in a solar farm or solar park where space is not at a premium, the lower overall expense can be more important.

2. CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide)

CIGS (Copper indium gallium selenide) solar cells do not require silicon but are similarly less efficient than polysilicon. CIGS cells’ manufacturing costs promise to be lower than PV as they can be printed directly onto glass sheets and other substrates. Nanosolar, Miasolé, Heliovolt are among the leading CIGS companies working on expanding production.

3. Cadmium Telluride (CdTe)

Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) cells are less expensive than silicon but not as energy efficient. Several companies, including First Solar and Q-Cells, are developing the technology. NREL currently holds the world-record conversion efficiency for CdTe of 16.5%. CdTe and CIGS, compared to silicon, have some additional concerns in terms of the availability and toxicity of some of these rare earth metals.

4. Nanotechnologies

Nanotechnologies include inorganic semiconductor nanocrystals, self-assembling nanostructures, and dye-sensitized nanometer-scale crystals. Not yet in production today, nanotechnologies that can be printed through roll-to-roll manufacturing processes have the potential to substantially reduce the cost of PV.

5. Concentrating PV

Concentrating PV basically concentrates the light of the sun onto silicon and other cell materials, at ratios of 2X all the way up to around 1000X. In effect, these companies can reduce the amount of silicon or other materials required for solar power, by the amount of concentration achieved. Companies such as SolFocus, Solaria, Soliant Energy, Energy Innovations and others are working to bring the technology to commercialization.

To learn more about how you can take advantage of the latest solar technologies, contact Renova Energy. We are one of the most trusted residential solar installers in the Coachella Valley!

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