Jul 23, 2017

Support from the US Department of Energy (DOE) will be given to several US-based development teams working to commercialize perovskite photovoltaics technology. In the latest round of funding awarded under its SunShot Initiative, the DOE will be giving $46.2 million in support of 48 different photovoltaics projects – with total funding around $65 million (when private-sector contributions are included). However, SunShot funding may be prone to changes and budget cuts proposed by the new Trump administration.

The long-term target of the funding is to achieve a levelized cost of solar-generated energy of $0.03 per kilowatt-hour (for utility-scale systems) by 2030. The SunShot initiative also has interim goals for 2020 of $0.06 per kWh for utility-scale PV, and $0.09 per kWh for residential installations. The DOE estimates the current cost of residential and utility PV at $0.18 and $0.07 per kWh respectively.

As was stated above, a number of projects backed in the latest round are focused on developments in perovskite solar materials, with the overall aim of commercialization. The new DOE funding is split into two categories, with $20.5 million for developing next-generation PV technologies and $25.7 million earmarked for supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Among the projects supported in the first category is a $1.37 million effort by Stanford University researchers led by principal investigator Michael McGehee on tandem perovskite-silicon cells. McGehee’s team is aiming to determine the best interconnection design and material properties for each module component, and use modelling to predict outdoor panel performance under realistic spectral variations.

Other projects on the perovskite theme include a Colorado School of Mines effort under Alan Sellinger to develop novel hole transport layers – generally regarded as the most expensive and unstable element of the technology.

Meanwhile Alex Zunger and colleagues at the University of Colorado, Boulder, will look at “double-perovskite” approaches, and a different Stanford group led by Reinhard Dauskart will work on a patterned hexagonal reinforcing scaffold filled with perovskite that is said to mitigate the chemical, thermal, and mechanical degradation issues of planar perovskite solar cells.

Included in the “technology to market” funding category is a $2 million effort by Dallas Solar to investigate defect formation in perovskites, with the aim of determining the ideal conditions for commercial scale-up.

Also receiving $2 million is Georgia-based Energy Materials Corporation, whose team will work on a high-speed roll-to-roll printing method to make perovskite modules in large volume with relatively cheap equipment.