Silicon-based panels currently dominate the PV market as the most popular solution, and for good reason: these deep-blue-colored modules are now more affordable than ever before, reaching new heights in installed capacity each year. Simply put, silicon is the key to solar energy becoming the energy industry’s new darling. However, in light of the rapid technical advancement in solar energy, Britain-based Oxford PV has recently developed solar panels made from silicon and perovskites that may the next game changer for the PV industry.
Oxford PV’s innovative technology involves coating conventional silicon-based PV panels with a transparent layer of perovskites. By combining the two materials, Oxford’s panels are greater than the sum of its parts, as the perovskite layer absorbs green and blue lights, while the silicon layer absorbs red and near-infrared lights, in turn allowing the panels to make use of a far larger spectrum of wavelengths compared to silicon-only panels.
The benefits do not stop there. Even in terms of energy conversion efficiency, Oxford’s panels are vastly superior to conventional silicon-based solutions. The company was able to manufacture panels that converted upwards of 27.3% of sunlight into solar energy in mid-2018. Oxford did not rest on its laurels following this breakthrough. Just a few months later, in December 2018, Oxford managed to raise the energy conversion rate past the 28% mark while also improving the durability of the perovskite layer by leaps and bounds. The company believes that the maximum theoretical energy conversation rate may be north of 40%.
Hot on the heels of its technical breakthroughs, Oxford PV has recently announced that it plans to kick off mass production by the end of 2020, with an expected market availability next year – an industry first. Oxford PV is currently constructing a 125MW manufacturing facility in Brandenburg, Germany. The facility is expected to be fully operational in mid-2021.
The new panels from Oxford PV are estimated to save homeowners “up to $1,000 on the purchase and installation of the average solar system”, according to CNN.
In an interview with CNN Business, Henry Snaith, professor of physics at Oxford university and co-founder of Oxford PV, had this to say: "If we want to make it that all new power generation is solar photovoltaics, then we need to keep driving the price down. One way to do that is to keep pushing the efficiency or the power output of the module up, and this is where perovskites really come into play."
Thanks to their increased solar energy conversion efficiency, fewer Oxford PV panels are required to generate the same amount of electricity compared with conventional solutions, thus reducing installation costs, footprint, and number of electrical equipment required for any given PV project by a significant margin. Oxford PV is hoping that these advantages are enough of a selling point to attract potential adopters. However, as this hybrid perovskite-silicon solution is a relative newcomer to an established PV market, only time will tell whether Oxford PV can achieve the installation capacity and sales performance it undoubtedly has in mind.