Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Future of Solar Pt 4

It is raining hard this week in Tokyo, and I have not seen the sun clearly once since I got back from a trip to the U.S. nine days ago.  Be that as it may, it is hard not to be optimistic about the future of solar, even in typhoon season. September is the month in Japan when it rains more than in the official "rainy season".

Technology and cost reduction march onward.

1. Last week, Kaneka, a Japanese company, announced a record 26.33% conversion efficiency for a "practical size" crystalline silicon solar PV cell.  Kaneka is targeting an LCOE of 14 yen/kWh in 2020 and 7 yen/kWh in 2030.  Kaneka's is a non-concentrating cell with "heterojunction technology using high-quality amorphous silicon, low resistance electrode technology, and a back-contact structure that captures more solar energy".  Nice to see Kaneka still in the game, since they are mostly known in the global industry for their earlier thin-film modules that faded when undercut dramatically by cost reductions for traditional crystalline PV modules within the past decade.

2. This is only the latest of MANY new records for cell and module efficiency this year.  Indeed, it is hard not to yawn a bit since we are so accustomed to seeing these.  The PV Magazine brief online article about Kaneka's feat also mentions or links to stories about

--Sunpower's module efficiency record of 24.1% set in June using cells from SunPower's X-Series modules.
--ZSW's 22.6% CISG thin film record from June.
--Trina's announcing in July 20.16% average efficiency for Trina's P-type multicrystalline silicon PERC cell under "industrially produced conditions" (as opposed to laboratory tests), allowing a 286w standard 60 cell module (as opposed to the 260 watt modules we were using only a year or two ago).
--Hanwha Q Cells' announcement of a 19.5% efficiency for a 72 cell module using standard multicrystalline silicon technology using its Q.UANTUM technology and four busbars.

3.  Of course, 7 yen/kWh LCOE might not be an aggressive enough target for 2030, even if 50% less than the Kaneka 2020 target.  We now see numerous PPA's in desert areas of the world for projects to be built in the 3~4 cent per kWh range.  (E.g. Peru - Enel Green Power 4.8 cents/kWh for construction in 2017, Coahuila Mexico 3.6 cents/kWh for construction in 2018, Dubai/Masdar 2.99 cents/kWh for construction 2019, and Chile, Solarpack, 2.91 cents/kWh, for construction 2019.)

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