Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica

Clean Power

Grid Parity In Sight For New Low-Cost Solar Cell

 
That light barreling down upon us from the end of the tunnel is solar power as cheap as fossil fuels. The latest breakthrough is a low-cost solar cell manufactured with the help of Gallium Arsenide, a compound of the “poor metal” gallium and arsenic.

It definitely does not sound like something you’d want to eat, but a recent laboratory demonstration shows that the resulting solar cells have the potential to produce electricity at a cost as low as 45 cents per watt, far below the grid standard of $1 per watt.

U Michigan and Global Photonic develop low cost solar cell

Another Road to Cheap Solar Power

The breakthrough comes courtesy of New Jersey–based Global Photonic Energy Corporation (GPEC) and its research partner, Dr. Stephen R. Forrest, Vice President for Research at the University of Michigan.

The new thin-film solar cell is based on organic photovoltaic (OPV) technology that uses carbon (conventional solar cells use silicon).

Engineering a more efficient solar cell is one key to cutting costs, but commercial-scale manufacturing plays another critical role in the overall cost of solar power. Greater efficiency does not necessarily march in lockstep with lower manufacturing costs, so the trick is to find a balance between the two.

That’s where the partners concentrated their research. The result is a new low-cost manufacturing process that involves using one Gallium Arsenide wafer to produce many solar cells.

Gallium Arsenide is used in conventional solar cell manufacturing, but until that process involves using the same wafer only once or twice, which puts a significant drag on manufacturing costs.

We Built This!

Solar cell efficiency is still a key part of the equation, and this is where GPEC’s decades-long research into “small-molecule” systems has come into play.

However, translating that efficiency into marketable products involves a different skill set, and that’s where the University of Michigan came in. Last year, Dr. Forrest won a grant of $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to incorporate GPEC’s propriety molecules into a “stacked architecture” that combines high efficiency and high reliability with low-cost manufacturing.

The grant was awarded through President Obama’s SunShot Initiative, which launched last year with the mission of bringing the cost of solar power down to fossil fuel parity within a few years.


 
Part of SunShot involves support for new, high-efficiency solar cells, including organic solar cells.

SunShot also places a heavy emphasis on reducing the “soft costs” of solar power (installation, permits, grid connections, etc), which DOE estimates can account for about half the overall cost of a solar array.

Location, Location, Location

Speaking of soft costs, when you talk about the installed cost of solar power, it’s also important to account for how it will be used. In the case of GPEC, the new flexible sheets seem to be aimed initially at the market for mobile and off-grid locations, including military equipment and satellites, where installation issues and other soft costs are quite different from those involved in the solar power market for buildings and other permanent structures.

However, the company also has a broader market in mind. Aside from layering the new solar cells onto plastic sheets, GPEC is looking at building-integrated applications such as spray-on solar “paint” and transparent solar windows. The company also envisions using the new technology for solar vehicle paint, solar covers for recharging portable electronics, and solar fabric.

Image (cropped): Coins by MoneyBlogNewz

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

 
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
 

Advertisement
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

Comments

#1 most loved electric vehicle, solar energy, and battery news & analysis site in the world.

 

Support our work today!

Power CleanTechnica: $3/Month

Tesla News Solar News EV News Data Reports

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Tesla News

EV Reviews

Home Efficiency

You May Also Like

Batteries

A hot market is growing for solid-state batteries that function efficiently at room temperature, as demonstrated by a new $200 million round of Series...

Batteries

A new biologically inspired battery membrane has enabled a battery with five times the capacity of the industry-standard lithium ion design to run for...

Clean Power

It's only a matter of time before concentrating solar power slips into the industrial process heat field, if a new aerogel pans out.

Air Quality

Courtesy of University of Michigan. A walk in the park could soon include getting real-time measurements of pollutants in the air and updated walking...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.