Taiwan is the second-biggest solar cell manufacturer in the world. Therefore, it is only fitting that Taiwan host one of the most important solar energy industry events. PV Taiwan 2011, organized jointly by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), was a two-day event showcasing the very best of what solar energy entities (both Taiwanese and international) had to offer to this fast-growing industry sector.
The recently concluded PV Taiwan was a roaring success, with 251 companies exhibiting their innovative wares in 626 booths to 11,437 visitors from 57 countries. The sheer scale of the two-day showcase does not allow for a detailed account of the many wonderful and creative products on display, but this report will attempt to do some justice and feature some of the highlights of the event. The event was divided into four parts: the Academic Poster Section; the Pavilions; the New Products and Solutions Outlook; and the PV Taiwan Forum.
Academic Poster Section
Taiwan is a manufacturing powerhouse and this position is, in part, due to the strong research hubs dotted around the island. From academic institutes to industrial research centers, Taiwan is producing research and adding to the global pool of knowledge, helping to drive this industry forward. Academic researchers from National Taiwan University, National Tsing Hua University, National Cheng Kung University, and National Chung Hsing University offered previews of their current research projects alongside industrial researchers from companies such as Industrial Technological Research Institute (ITRI), Advanced Energy and ForeSight Technology.
Covering diverse subject matter, from solar trackers to dye-sensitized solar cells to improvements to solar cell components, these researchers demonstrated the depth of work being carried out and the solutions to current limitations found in the different segments of the solar energy industry. An example of this research-led drive to forward the industry can be seen from Professor Bin Juine Huang’s research team (National Taiwan University, Taiwan) demonstration of their one-axis three-position solar tracking device. This device is quite promising as it better tracks the path of the sun which helps to boost the work efficiency and also brings cost savings, two features that are attractive to both industry and consumers.
With over 600 booths, the floor space of PV Taiwan was divided into themes: Application Product Area; High Concentrated Photovoltaics (HCPV); Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSCs); and PV Cells/Modules/Systems. For the purpose of this report, the three areas of HCPV, DSSC, and PV cells/modules/systems shall be grouped together under Solar Energy Technology.
[i] Application Products Area
This section of PV Taiwan put the spotlight on research (both academic and industrial) that was at the pre-commercialization stage or that had made the crossover to full commercialization. The products on display were both creative and novel, covering applications in the home to public infrastructure utilization. For example, home-based applications included covering a lawnmower with solar cells, the prototype construction of a ‘net zero energy house’ (part of the Zero Energy Building Technology Alliance (ZEBTA) initiative), and even plastering a dog kennel with photovoltaic material. Two fascinating ideas featured solar-powered ditch covers and a clever and innovative building-integrated photovoltaic application.
The solar ditch covers are quite unique in that they serve an infrastructure purpose as well as a public health purpose. The ditches found on either side of rural roads, and some urban roads, are generally partially filled with either stagnant water or running sewer water. This is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and diseases such as malaria. By positioning solar-powered insect eliminators in the ditch part-way, mosquitoes and other insects could be electrocuted thus reducing the spread of diseases; a simple yet brilliant idea.
The concept of a pane of glass that could both provide insulation when required and generate electricity via harnessing solar energy is an advancement to change the face of the solar industry. Professor Chin- Huai Young of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST), along with researchers from his group, managed to do just this by the clever use of thin film solar cells; by combining heat insulation thin films with electricity generating thin film solar cells, Professor Young and his team were able to produce an innovative Building-Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) application that can save around 60 % of the cost of running an air conditioner during the summer and save substantial amounts during the cold winter months.
[ii] Solar Energy Technology
Under the HCPV umbrella, Everphoton Energy Corporation displayed their dual-axis solar tracker and information on the sun sensor technology, as well as their compact and standard HCPV modules.
In the DSSC section of the pavilion, ITRI presented information (and presented in greater detail in the New Products and Solutions Outlook segment) on the work being carried out on DSSC. In particular focus was the work being done on improving the DSSC in terms of improving the electrolyte and of utilizing quantum dots.
The PV cell/module/system element to the Pavilion floor demonstrated the width and depth of solar energy entities. Established multinational players like Dupont featured their solar paste SolametTM (in particular, their solar pastes PV51x, PV36x, and PV41x) and their recent acquisition, Innovalight. The nanocrystalline ink technology produced by Innovalight allows for an increase of 1 % in crystalline silicon electrical energy conversion efficiency rates.
Neo Solar Power Corporation displayed their entire range of solar cells, with a particular solar cell drawing some attention: Black 19. This monocrystalline three-busbar solar cell has an efficiency rating of over 19 % and can be made using existing and proven manufacturing techniques.
Stäubli, the mechatronics solution provider, had on display a Cleanroom robot specifically suited to work in cleanroom environments such as those found in the semiconductor industry.
Axuntek, the copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) manufacturer based in Taiwan, exhibited a variety of CIGS solar panels and CIGS photovoltaic chargers.
PV Taiwan 2011 Forum
This Forum brought together many of the leading figures in the solar energy industry to share insights and stimulate discussion. From the decision-makers at Motech Industries, Gintech industries, and Topcell Solar Industries, to the senior executives in analysis and marketing divisions, the general consensus was that solar energy is fast maturing and will play a significant role in the energy mix for many countries. With grid parity predicted as early as next year but more generally by 2015, solar energy can indeed look forward to a promising future.