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​New perovskite cell technology may be the next big thing in solar

Written by Matteo Coullare

​New perovskite cell technology may be the next big thing in solar

10 months ago by Matteo Coullare
Andreas Gucklhorn Ilpf2e U Pp Ue Unsplash (1)

Why was 2022 an important year for renewable energy?

There is no doubt that 2022 was an important year for renewable energy. Despite delayed supply chain turbulences and skyrocketing raw material costs caused by the lingering coronavirus pandemic, the renewable energy industry maintained its upward growth trajectory over the past year, with the global renewable net capacity increasing by a groundbreaking 295 Gigawatts [1]. We can attribute these positive trends primarily to the largest global power players – notably China, the United States, the European Union, and India – and their commitment to market reforms and new renewable energy policy implementations. The most influential of these policies; China’s “Five-Year Plan” and Europe’s “REPowerEU”, have played an integral role in marking this year as the beginning of the green transition [2],[3].

On the American side of things, no law has been more integral to Biden’s presidency and contributed more to clean energy investment than the ‘Inflation Reduction Act of 2022’. In addition to combatting the national inflation crisis and reducing prescription drug prices, the US IRA aims to inject 369 billion dollars into the renewable energy industry, “lower overall energy costs, increase cleaner production, and reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030” [4].

What markets are likely to benefit most from IRA?

Being only a few months into IRA, it is challenging at this stage to discern IRA’s direct impacts on the industry and how successful it will be in the long term. That said, its presence has certainly created quite a buzz in several renewable energy markets. Assuming the IRA forecasts are correct, and this past decade’s growth trend is maintained, the markets that are likely to benefit the most from IRA lie in solar. This, of course, is probably not very shocking to most industry leaders; although hydropower and wind remain the largest source of global renewable energy capacity, solar PV has contributed to over 60% of capacity growth in 2021 and is expected to be “the most installed power capacity worldwide by 2027, surpassing coal, natural gas, and hydropower” [2].

As it currently stands, the solar cell market continues to be dominated by crystalline silicon - the leading material in photovoltaic energy harvesting technology. This has been the case since 1954, when Bell Labs modeled the first silicon cell to have an energy efficiency of over 6 percent [5]. 70 years later, most of the solar panels available for commercial use have an efficiency that fluctuates between 15 - 22 percent [6]. Although this progress is substantial, silicon-based solar projects are still relatively inefficient for how much they cost to manufacture and upkeep. Some even argue that the processes and materials involved in the production of solar panels are not environmentally friendly, casting even more uncertainty on solar as a potential long-term renewable energy source.


What will most likely increase scientific research?

The good news? Laws like the Inflation Reduction Act will most certainly increase scientific research in solar efficiency, both in silicon technology and in other materials whose efficiency potentials have yet to be fully recorded. Perovskite technology has been on the radar for many researchers and industry leaders, primarily due to its remarkable efficiency levels, low production costs, and commercial viability. We must note however, that a lot of work needs to be done before we can expect to see perovskite cells take over our suburbs. Its primary limitation is its durability; perovskite cells have continuously demonstrated short life lengths and a tendency to decompose when interacting with moisture and oxygen (two things that are somewhat common on this planet) [7]. That said, compared to silicon, progress in perovskite solar cell technology has been much faster; efficiency levels that were first reported at 3% back in 2009 are now standing at 25% today, making its durability issue slightly less concerning [7].

In addition to its competitive power conversion efficiencies (PCE), perovskite technology has received a lot of attention for its small size and low production time, cost, and complexity. As such, it seems that from both a business and scientific perspective, its commercial viability is not a matter of if, but a matter of when.


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