Austrian scientists launch 'climate adaptive PV' project

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Austrian scientists, researchers and clean energy companies – including inverter specialists Fronius – have launched a new, €5.5 million ($5.8 million) project aimed at examining ways to develop solar PV components that are adaptable to the climate.

The Infinity project will be led by Carinthian Tech Research AG (CTR) and the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), and will call on the expertise of a wealth of Austrian industrial partners, including Infineon Technologies Austria, ENcome Energy Performance and KIOTO Photovoltaics.

As solar demand grows globally, expansion of the industry into the world’s sunbelt zones is expected to accelerate. The challenges of installing solar PV arrays in these climatic regions are well known, but the industry is largely reliant on one standardized PV system for all climate zones.

The Infinity team believe that a concerted R&D effort, pooling expertise from many links in the solar supply chain, can help engineer a suite of next generation PV components that have been specially adapted for high performance and reliability in harsh climatic zones and regions.

"Research and development is an important strategic factor in expanding renewable energies and achieving global climate protection goals," said Austrian technology minister Alois Stöger at the launch of the project. "As effective climate policy needs innovative energy technologies, Austrian solar expertise is in demand on the global market."

Funding is being part-subsidized by the Climate and Energy Fund, and CTR project manager Christina Hirschl said that the Infinity project will create a basis for the next-generation of PV components, systems and processes.

"Our research will focus on adapting both the materials and the whole PV system to different climate conditions and special regional features," she said. "In our work, we also take such factors into account as extreme temperatures, sand and instable electrical grids."

The Infinity project, Hirschl added, is aimed at improving not just climate protection for solar PV systems but also making companies more competitive globally as the solar industry expands.

According to the project manager, a special feature of the project will be its holistic research method that will be employed along the entire PV value chain, including the manufacturing process, components used and even installation and maintenance. "The scientific findings will be used to develop further process, service and O&M strategies."

Michael Schwark, lead scientist from AIT, added: "The various inputs along the value chain will significantly improve the quality of the mathematical-physical models, enabling climate-related aging predictions to be given for all parts of a PV system. Apart from optimizing the overall system, these models will also mean more accurate acceptance and maintenance recommendations for individual climate zones."