The US Department of Energy supports perovskite R&D initiatives, both in academia and industry. We have recently interviewed Lenny Tinker, Photovoltaics Program Manager, Solar Energy Technologies Office at the US DoE.
Q: Hello Lenny, thanks for your time. Do you believe perovskite materials hold the key to next-gen solar (PV) energy?
Perovskite solar cells have shown potential for high performance and low production costs. However, considerable work needs to be done in order for these materials to reach commercial success in PV applications.
Q: When do you expect perovskites to enter the commercial solar market?
Niche products may emerge sooner but perovskites are very unlikely to enter to the market for grid-connected energy production before 2030. Therefore, it is not believed they will play a significant role in the solar energy deployed to decarbonize the electricity sector by 2035.
Q: What are the main challenges holding perovskite solar PVs back?
The DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office has identified four primary challenges that must be simultaneously addressed for perovskite technologies to be commercially successful. They are outlined in a recently published peer-reviewed article.
- Durability: To compete with commercially-available technologies, perovskite photovoltaic (PV) cells must be able to survive at least 20 years outdoors, withstanding all kinds of weather and temperature changes while converting solar energy to electricity with at least the same efficiency as other commercial PV technologies.
- Efficiency at scale: While small perovskite cells are highly efficient, in that they convert a greater percentage of the sun’s energy into electricity than nearly all thin-film technologies, cells larger than 1cm2 are less efficient. Maintaining device efficiency for large devices is necessary to be competitive with existing technologies.
- Low-cost and robust manufacturing: Once perovskite PV modules are sufficiently stable and efficient, the next hurdle will be repeatedly and reliably producing them in a large-scale manufacturing facility. However, small environmental changes, like room temperature and humidity, or process conditions currently threaten the quality of the product.
- Bankability: Companies will need to prove that the technical challenges of perovskite panels have been solved so that investors will be confident enough to finance the panels at reasonable interest rates.
Q: Do you think tandem (silicon-perovskite) architectures are preferable to all-perovskite panels?
There is still useful research to be done on all-perovskite devices, however early signs indicate that hybrid tandems have more promise as a viable near-future commercial PV technology.
Q: How do you see the future solar energy market in 5-10 years, in terms of technologies (silicon, QDs, perovskites...)
Silicon will continue to dominate the solar energy market in the near future, especially as we build up domestic manufacturing capacity. Cadmium telluride will compete with silicon for a share of the market. It is highly unlikely, that perovskites be part of the commercial PV market in that time frame.
Q: How does the DoE plan to support next-gen panel production and adoption in the US?
Advancing perovskites is part of DOE’s multifaceted strategy to achieve the administration’s goal of 100% clean economy by 2050 and to increase opportunities to manufacture solar modules here in the United States. DOE supports activities across the perovskite PV space with the goal of advancing research, development, demonstration and eventual deployment of this promising technology.
SETO has funded perovskite research in a variety of funding announcements since 2014 and recently announced $18M of new award selections. Furthermore, the Perovskite Startup Prize is designed to accelerate the development of new perovskite solar companies. Additionally, established startups can apply for funding through the Small Business Innovation Research program, and more mature companies are eligible for the Incubator research program.