A research paper entitled “Prospects for photovoltaic technology”,authored by Li Zhenguo, founder & president of LONGi Green Energy Technology (also the principal of LONGi’s Central Research and Development Institute) has been published in Engineering, an academic journal of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
In his article, Li reviews the development scenarios and future prospects for photovoltaic (PV) cell technology from the perspectives of related trends and extension of application scenarios, noting that innovation in PV technology is the foundation for the development of the industry and plays an indispensable role in promoting the creation of a global low-carbon energy system to eventually achieve carbon neutrality. Over the coming years, technology will continue to enhance power conversion efficiency (PCE), reduce the cost of PV energy and expand the scale of the industry.
Improving conversion efficiency
High conversion efficiency and lower LCOE (Levelized Cost of Energy) ensure the competitiveness of PV power, and both depend on technological advances in the industry.
Li states that, with the rapid development of monocrystalline silicon cell technology, PV has become one of the most economical forms of renewable energy, and its share of the global energy system will continue to increase.
With the application of advanced laboratory technologies and new technical breakthroughs, the conversion efficiency of commercial c-Si solar cells will continue to improve.
Over the next decade, the c-Si solar cell will remain the mainstream technical route for the PV industry but, in order to achieve a cell conversion efficiency of over 28%, it will still be necessary to fully understand the factors that affect cell efficiency and explore ways to control these.
If the lifespan and large area efficiency loss of perovskite cells can be improved upon, perovskite/c-Si tandem solar cells can become the mainstream in the future. For this reason, a priority for the PV industry is to re-focus itself on a return to the main objective of enhancing conversion efficiencies, strengthening R&D investment in new cell materials and technologies, laying a foundation for scientific and technological innovation and committing to a reduction in cost and increase in benefits to improve its competitiveness.
Expanding photovoltaic application scenarios
The significant rise of PV’s presence in the power grid is challenged by its regionally intermittent nature. To overcome this situation, we are seeing the adoption of multi-energy complementary systems with PV and other renewable energies, such as hydro and wind power. At the same time, extended systems made up of PV and various energy storage units are emerging, including physical (hydropower), electrochemical (battery) and chemical (hydrogen) approaches.
With the continual cost reduction of PV energy, the PV-EC route is expected to become the cheapest method for production of green hydrogen. The potentially huge future demand for green hydrogen will also bring great opportunities for the development of the PV industry and a further reduction in its costs.
Li believes that, in the long term, the “PV+” concept, in which green hydrogen is heavily involved, is the key to decarbonization and sustainable development.