NREL's Interactive Best Research-Cell Efficiency Chart

NREL maintains a chart of the highest confirmed conversion efficiencies for research cells for a range of photovoltaic technologies. This is an interactive version of that chart.

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Vertical solar mount achieves UL certification

In PV Magazine (Jan 22, 2024): Vertical solar mount first of kind to achieve UL certification:

In Somerset, California, German-designed Sunzaun vertical solar arrays were installed at a vineyard. Installer Sunstall developed the facility, which was composed of 43 450 W modules connected to a microinverter and two batteries.

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Super-heated Blocks Store Energy

Silicon Valley Startup Antora Energy has been honing the concept of using heat to store energy since launching in 2018 and has secured $50 million from Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Lowercarbon Capital and other established climatetech investors. Those backers are betting that Antora can make a dent in the planet-warming gases generated by industrial activities, which have thus far proven hard to clean up. By turning intermittent wind and solar into dependable clean energy whenever it’s needed.

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Unfounded concerns about photovoltaic module toxicity and waste are slowing decarbonization

Unsubstantiated claims that fuel growing public concern over the toxicity of photovoltaic modules and their waste are slowing their deployment. Clarifying these issues will help to facilitate the decarbonization that our world depends on.

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Solar films: thin, flexible, durable

Organic solar film made from hydrocarbons is flexible, environmentally friendly and easy to apply. The film consists of solar cells that can be applied almost anywhere — not just on roofs.

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Working to Get the Lead out of Perovskite Solar Panels

Over the past decade, innovations have been underway to improve the performance of solar panels. One of the most promising innovations is the use of perovskites. A major downside is the fact that perovskite solar panels cells are made with Lead (Pb), which is highly toxic.  Scientists are working to get the lead out.

In 2014, a group of European scientists from Oxford and elsewhere reported that they were able to substitute tin for lead and achieved efficiencies of over 6% under 1 sun illumination.  Scientists at National Chia Tung University in Taiwan achieved 10% efficiency and greater stability with tin-based perovskite cells in 2019.

Now, in a study published in Nature Energy in February 2023, research by scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) and others have synthesized a capping layer that does not contain lead. Perovskite solar cells are made of several layers of materials, including a perovskite layer that harvests light and a protective capping layer and both typically contain lead. 

A zinc-based compound used a capping material did not draw lead ions up from the underlying perovskite layer and was more effective than the traditional method at fabricating the capping layer.   The perovskite cell reportedly has a conversion efficiency of 24.1% under lab settings. The prototype demonstrated an average light conversion rate of almost 23% over 103 cells tested. It maintained more than 90% of its ability to convert light into electricity for more than 1,000 hours of operation at full capacity.

‘Automated field factory’ for solar farm construction

According to Renewable Energy World (05/17/23), Terabase Energy has unveiled how the company plans to use software and automation to revolutionize utility-scale solar project construction. The California-based startup's "Terafab" automated field factory combines a digital twin of the project site, advanced supply chain and inventory management systems, an onsite wireless digital command center, a field-deployed automated assembly line, and specialized installation rovers to allow for automated, 24/7 construction.

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Swiss Startup to Install Solar Panels on Railroad Track

According to YaleEnvironment360 (3/17/2023), a Swiss start-up, Sun-Ways, will install solar panels on a railway in western Switzerland, pending approval from transportation officials.

The pilot project on a roughly 300-foot stretch of railway is expected to demonstrate how its system could save space and cut down on labor costs. The company estimates that if panels were installed on every mile of the Swiss rail network, they could meet around 2 percent of Switzerland’s power demand.

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Much enhanced photovoltaic effect with ferroelectric-paraelectric superlattices

Researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and Leibniz Institute of Surface Engineering (IOM) have discovered a new method to increase the efficiency of solar cells by a factor of 1,000. They achieved this breakthrough by creating crystalline layers of barium titanate, strontium titanate, and calcium titanate, which were alternately placed on top of one another in a lattice structure.

Their findings, which could revolutionize the solar energy industry, were recently published in the journal Science Advances.

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Gravity Batteries Can Store Solar Energy

Finding ways to store power generated by the sun when the sun is not shining is essential if the world is to move away from fossil fuels.

Gravity batteries is one technology that can store power from renewable energy generators.  Gravity is free, clean and easily accessible, without the complications of producing hydrogen or the environmental and human rights concerns linked to some lithium mining.

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