NREL Identifies Potential of New Solar Technologies


NREL identifies potential of new solar technologies, according to a report published on November 15, 2018.

This study was conducted by the scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Although demand for rigid silicon solar panels is high in the utility and residential markets, opportunity exists for thin-film photovoltaic and emerging technologies notable for being lightweight and flexible.

Matthew Reese, an NREL researcher and lead author of the paper, said, “We explore the limits behind power-to-weight ratios and how this can generate value for emerging players in photovoltaics to enable them to reach gigawatt scale without having to directly compete with silicon solar panels.”

95 percent of the global solar market is constituted by silicon panels and it generates electricity for utilities, residences, and businesses. However, the researchers identified applications that must consider value propositions beyond the standard value triad of cost, efficiency, and reliability used for conventional photovoltaic (PV) panels. Three high-value markets where identified by the researchers. Each market had the potential to cumulatively generate a gigawatt (GW) of electricity at a price above $1 a watt over the next 10 years

Aerospace and unmanned aerial vehicles, portable charging, and ground transportation are the three high-value markets. These markets were found to be smaller but significant and ones that will pay a premium for the added value of the technology being lightweight to support initial, low-scale production by the researchers. Lower limit for a lightweight PV device was determined by the researchers and it was between 300 and 500 grams per square meter. Any value below this would reduce the device’s reliability, durability, and safety.


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