Let’s Shed Light Upon Advancements In Photovoltaic Industry: Rapid Innovations to Open New Opportunities

Supportive government initiatives and regulations for usage of photovoltaic technology and rise in demand for PV technology in residential applications drive the growth in the market.

The bright sun of our galaxy emits enough power onto our little blue planet every second to meet our ever-rising demand for energy. Given that it is readily available and renewable, it is the most profitable and eco-friendly energy source. The two widely-recognized classes of technologies for converting solar energy to electricity are photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP). Moreover, given the advancements in photovoltaics, the future of solar power seems brighter than ever.

Recently, Hellenic Petroleum acquired a PV project in Northern Greece and China Energy Engineering Corp is expected to develop 500 MWp of solar PV energy in Uganda. On the other hand, researchers found a novel way to generate electric power from thermal sources among other innovations in the PV industry.

Novel innovations to find new ways to generate electricity

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in the U.S. have recently developed a new type of PV device that can generate electrical power from sources that radiate heat at moderate temperatures.

They succeeded in converting power densities between 27-61 μW/cm2 from thermal sources at 250-400º. As per the scientists, this energy-harvesting tech would be used on the waste heat from chemical manufacturing facilities or nuclear plants. The team leader, Paul Davids stated that this would help in the development of compact thermal power supplies for remote applications such as deep space probes.

In other news, researchers have introduced transparent PV technology. Thanks to their research, we are close to the goal of converting building windows and car sunroofs as a battery element.

The team led by Prof. Kwanyong Seo at UNIST has successfully made crystalline silicon solar cells that are transparent with dark and muddy colors. This novel PV technology is a result of applying a microstructure concept. The crystalline silicon solar cells produce energy using silicon with a regular atomic arrangement as a "photoactive layer", which converts solar energy into electric energy.

To make transparent silicon solar cells, researchers punched tiny holes-of the sizes that are invisible to naked eyes-in opaque solar cells. This so-called microstructure transmits sunlight, enabling it to get absorbing in the silicon region.

Surge in investments to promote advancements in PV technology

One of the largest oil companies, Hellenic Petroleum S.A. recently announced the acquisition of solar power park in Greece that could provide a power of 204 MW. This would be the largest project of renewable energy sources in Greece. Currently, the project is being developed by German company juwi and is projected to be operational by the end of next year.

The project includes an investment of 130 million euros and would create around 350 job positions to produce 300 GWh per year. This amount of energy created would be sufficient to power around 75,000 households and save CO2 emission significantly.

Apart from this, China Energy Engineering Corp (CEEC) has declared to develop 500 MWp of solar PV energy in Uganda. This projected would need an investment of at least $500 million and offer a remarkable boost to the nation's electricity supply.

The construction of the project would be given to China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC), which is recognized for its several hydroelectric projects in African countries. Prior to this, the CGGC had commissioned the Genale Dawa III dam in the Oromia region of southern Ethiopia.

Now, CGGC has focused on solar energy. Currently, in Uganda, the company aims to produce 500 MWp with an investment of 287.5 million dollars over the span of three years.

What would the future hold?

According to Allied Market Research, a research firm, the global photovoltaic market is expected to reach $333.72 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 25.1% from 2019 to 2026. That's because of the supportive government policies and initiative toward usage of photovoltaic technology and surge in demand for PV technology, especially in residential applications.

However, researchers aim to generate energy without sunlight. Solar cells require sunlight, but researchers at the University of California proposed to develop an "anti-photovoltaic cell" that could generate power of up to 59 watts per square meter at night.

The conventional PV technology is highly dependent on sunlight, making it ineffective at night. However, this new power source could offer wide effects, battling climate as well as offering the stability of the energy grid. In addition, the anti-photovoltaic cells could solve the issue of plaguing energy grids with large deployments of solar cells, which is a common problem in California.

The emergence of innovating PV devices and an increase in investment to develop solar power plants to tackle the increasing power demand makes one thing crystal clear. The recent developments are bound to open new doors for the market players and they must be ready for this.

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