REC Group shows off new N-Peak solar panel at Intersolar Europe

REC N-Peak Lauch Event at Intersolar Europe 2018

REC Group, the leading European brand for solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, launched its brand-new N-Peak high-performance solar panel at Intersolar Europe in Munich. The new panel breaks fresh ground for REC and the industry: this is the first solar panel to combine n-type mono half-cut cells with a twin-panel design, and promises excellent power output of up to 330 watt peak allied to lasting performance.

The production of n-type mono cells kicks off at the end of June in REC’s brand-new industry 4.0 manufacturing building at the company’s Singapore plant. The first N-Peak modules are scheduled to roll off the line in August.

The REC N-Peak Series builds on the success of REC’s multiple award-winning TwinPeak technology. Already recognized by an Intersolar award in 2015, REC is well-known for being a pioneer for half-cut cells and its twin panel design.

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Key highlights of the new N-Peak

· REC’s most powerful 60-cell module ever
· The world’s first solar module to combine n-type mono half-cut cells with a twin-panel design
· Mono n-type is the most efficient crystalline silicon technology
· Up to 330 watt peak
· Super-strong frame design: for loads of up to 7000 Pa
· Zero light-induced degradation
· 12-year product warranty and 0.5% annual degradation over 25-year power warranty, resulting in 86% of nameplate power after 25 years
· Improved performance in shaded conditions
· Flexible installation options

— Solar Builder magazine

SEIA: Additional 25 percent tariff on solar cells, modules from China being considered

china solar module cell imports tariff

It seems Trump may stoke the trade war flames with China once more after the United States Trade Representative (USTR) published a new list of products covered under the Section 301 action against China for intellectual property (IP) violations. In this new list, the USTR has targeted solar cells and modules from China for an additional proposed 25 percent tariff.

Here is Abigail Ross Hopper, CEO of SEIA, on what this means for the industry.

This is not a final decision. USTR broke its determination into two lists: the first made up of products with final determinations and the second subject to additional review. Solar cells and modules are part of the second list.

The USTR included cells and panels under the obscure sounding category:

  • 8541.40.60 | Diodes for semiconductor devices, other than light-emitting diodes

This category covers the more specific 10-digit items in which cells and modules are typically classified.

In the coming weeks, USTR will initiate a public notice and comment process, likely including a public hearing. We don’t know yet how long that process will take, but it is likely to last 30-60 days. After that process is complete, USTR will issue a final determination as to which of the items on its second list released today will be subject to the duties.

Normally, once a final determination is issued, it becomes effective 30 days later. That deadline could be extended up to 180 days, in the president’s discretion, if he is in negotiations with the Chinese government to resolve the underlying dispute over Chinese IP violations.

If finalized, this would increase tariffs by 25 percent for cells and panels coming from China. Given the relatively small portion of cells and panels imported to the U.S. from China now due to the antidumping, countervailing, and safeguard duties imposed on Chinese products, it is difficult to assess the effect additional duties would have on the U.S. market. Regardless, SEIA views this as a negative development as it could cause harm to the U.S. market and will continue to fight against imposition of these tariffs.

— Solar Builder magazine

SunPower’s highest efficiency solar panels to debut at Intersolar Europe this week

sunpower logo

SunPower will formally introduce its highest efficiency X-Series residential solar panel this week during Intersolar Europe in Munich, Germany. At 370-watts and 22.7-percent efficiency, it is the most efficient solar panel that customers can buy for their home today.

“By engineering greater efficiency solar panels, we can fit more watts on the roof in the same amount of space when compared to conventional solar, offering customers the best value for energy,” said Gabi Bunea, SunPower vice president, research and development.

The 370-watt X-Series solar panel offers 60 percent more power than a conventional solar panel from the same amount of roof space over 25 years. It only takes 15 SunPower panels to produce as much energy as 22 conventional panels, which means homeowners require fewer panels to generate an equal amount of electricity. Made with third-generation SunPower Maxeon solar cells that are built on a solid metal foundation for high reliability and performance, SunPower panels are virtually impervious to the corrosion and cracking that typically degrade conventional panels allowing the company to offer an industry-leading 25-year Combined Power and Product Warranty.

“In mature solar markets such as Europe, our customers expect high-quality, proven technology, and we’re meeting those demands with SunPower’s record-setting solar panels,” said Chris de Jong, director of Netherlands’ Isogoed Duurzaam Besparen B.V. and one of SunPower’s 1,400 installation partners operating around the world. “We look forward to helping more homeowners save on monthly electric bills with a growing range of high-efficiency, reliable solar solutions from SunPower.”

In addition, this year SunPower is expanding its suite of residential solar solutions for homeowners in EMEA and parts of APAC with the P-19 Series (P-19) solar panel offering 19 percent efficiency, which is currently available to commercial customers in select APAC markets. Engineered with the same innovative shingled cell design as the 17-percent efficient P-Series solar panel used in commercial applications, P-19 uses monocrystaline PERC solar cells to generate up to 32 percent more energy in the same space over 25 years when compared to conventional panels. The P-19 solar panel is a lower cost option compared to SunPower’s E-Series and X-Series panels, yet still delivers high quality and reliability to customers, and is also backed by SunPower’s 25-year Combined Power and Product Warranty.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar-Tectic patents perovskite, crystalline silicon thin-film tandem solar cell

solar tectic perovskite

Perovskite materials are always on the horizon for the solar industry, holding promise as a future solution to the long-standing problem of solar cell efficiency, which is of primary importance in today’s solar panel market. And while there have been numerous reports of perovskite/silicon (wafer) tandem solar cells, remarkably there has been none on a perovskite/crystalline silicon thin-film tandem solar cell, until now.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded Solar-Tectic LLC  two patent applications for perovskite thin film solar cells, one of which covers all kinds of perovskites. The inventors are Ashok Chaudhari, Founding Manager of Solar-Tectic, and the late Dr. Praveen Chaudhari, renowned materials physicist.

Tandem cells explaned

Wafer-sized bottom poly- and monocrystalline silicon layers in PERC, PERL, HIT, HJ, or perovskite/silicon tandem cells are typically 200-280 microns thick, whereas Solar-Tectic’s thin-film crystalline inorganic bottom layers can be as thin as 20-30 microns with the same or similar efficiency; moreover, they can be processed at much lower temperatures thereby lowering costs of production significantly. The top perovskite layer is less than only 1 micron – an ultra-thin film — and a thin film crystalline silicon (CSiTF) bottom layer decouples the need for a silicon wafer. If the price of polysilicon rises less silicon material use will be an additional cost savings.

RELATED: Modules and integration: Four reasons why AC, smart modules are on the rise

Tandem perovskite solar cells are capable in theory of 45 percent efficiency, though Solar-Tectic has set a more realistic 30 percent efficiency goal, higher than the best silicon wafer technologies such as PERC, PERL, HIT, HJ cells with 25-26.6 percent efficiencies. The efficiencies of today’s solar cells on the market in general range from 14 – 25 percent. A cost effective 30 percent efficient solar cell with a simple design would revolutionize the solar energy industry by dramatically reducing the balance of system (BoS) costs, thereby lessening the need for fossil fuel generated electricity significantly. Silicon wafer technology based on polycrystalline or monocrystalline silicon, which is 90 percent of today’s market, would become obsolete.

Non-toxic

Importantly, the entire Solar-Tectic process is environmentally friendly since non-toxic Sn (tin) or Au (gold) is used to deposit the crystalline silicon thin-film material for the bottom layer in the tandem/heterojunction configuration as well as in the top, perovskite, layer. The more commonly used toxic Pb (lead) is not used in the perovskite here. The manufacturing methods used in this technology – sputtering or electron beam evaporation — are conventional and similar to those used in today’s thin-film solar cell industry, and importantly also in the display industry with which there is much overlap and potential for synergy.

The breakthrough patents correspond to a “Tandem Series” of solar cell technologies which has been launched by Solar-Tectic, and that includes a variety of different proven semiconductor photovoltaic materials (i.e. III-V, CZTS, a-Si, etc) for the top layer on silicon (or germanium) bottom layer, on various substrates such as cheap soda-lime glass. A paper reporting a successful step in this approach was recently published. Last year, Solar-Tectic announced the first patent ever granted for this perovskite/silicon thin-film tandem approach.

A patent for a copper oxide thin-film tandem solar cell was also granted to ST (US 9,997,661) this month thereby expanding the IP portfolio of the tandem series.

— Solar Builder magazine

Photovoltaic facades: How feasible is the technology, and in what applications

BIPV solar facades

There are several flavors of technology today jostling to make the dream of electricity-generating windows a reality. While these are likely too expensive and inefficient to be in your home any time soon, pilot projects for such windows in commercial buildings are gaining momentum, and studies (utilizing annual data of sunlit areas in cities) have claimed potential gigawatt-hours of electricity generation in the windows on a high-rise. The graphic below from the new IDTechEx Research report “Smart Glass and Windows 2018-2028: Electronic Shading and Semi-Transparent PV” gives an overview of some of the conventional and emerging photovoltaic (PV) technologies.

Today, the flavor of this technology with the largest established base of installations is of crystalline silicon (c-Si) manufactured into strings and laminated in glass, which has been sold since 2009. One reason for this is that c-Si is some decades old and is proven to last in performance and aesthetics for north of 25 years: this reassures building owners and designers. The weakness is the non-uniform transparency (lines created by the c-Si strings giving a ‘grating’ effect), and a ceiling of 60 percent visible transparency. Ultimately this results in a disadvantage that so far has prevented the market from truly taking off.

However, there is a strengthening case for use of this glass horizontally placed, like in a skylight, or integrated into the building envelope as a facade. In other words, glass areas that are not meant to be looked through. By our estimates at IDTechEx, the volume of this market is to the order of hundreds of thousands of square meters a year and growing.

An emerging thin-film PV with promise is organic photovoltaics (OPV). The main advantages of OPV are a potential for over 80 percent visible transparency (which is comparable to conventional glazing), a flexibility, which means a curved glass is possible (for, say, an electric vehicle, where there is also a trend for an increasing glass area per car), and it is lightweight. An added benefit is that the high transparency is achieved by being more reliant on other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum – UV and infra-red – which provides the advantage of blocking heat entering a building, allowing you to turn down the power setting of your air-conditioning and save electricity.

solar OPV IDTechEX

OPV is just beginning to be commercialized, and a handful of companies in the space are making progress. One company called Sunew has already installed OPV in a skylight in São Paulo. While this is a major step, it is not highly transparent and at a distance looks similar to what conventional PV looks like stuck on a flat surface. Other companies interviewed by IDTechEx have attracted partnerships with members of the big four glaziers (AGC, Nippon Sheet Glass, Guardian, Saint Gobain), and have plans for market entry as early as next year.

The Achilles heel of OPV is the low efficiency (which is below 5 percent, often below 3 percent), and the lifetime and stability. OPV companies typically quote lifetimes that range between five and 10 years, depending on the application. Our understanding at IDTechEx is that 10 years would be for a static application such as a commercial building or high-rise, and a car, which is subject to more shocks, would sit at the five-year end of this spectrum (or worse). Anything below 25 years of life is a tough sell for the construction industry, which means advancements are likely required before mainstream adoption in this segment.

IDTechEx has recently published a major update to its market report on Smart Glass, which covers electricity-generating glass based on organic photovoltaics (OPV), solar concentrators and more. Check “Smart Glass and Windows 2018-2028: Electronic Shading and Semi-Transparent PV” to learn more.

Luke Gear is a Technology Analyst at IDTechEx.

— Solar Builder magazine