MIT researchers say PV innovations should be deployed in niche markets first


Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have conducted a techno-economic analysis they claim demonstrates the importance of niche markets for bringing cutting-edge PV technologies such as perovskites to commercial maturity.

Higher-value niche markets such as the building-integrated PV (BIPV) segment, and that for self-powered microelectronics devices, may offer more room for testing new solar technologies at lower cost, say the authors of the study. The MIT team said customers in such markets are more comfortable paying a higher price for more sophisticated products. “They’ll pay a little more if your product is flexible, or if the module fits into a building envelope,” stated the study.

High investment costs

The researchers said targeting specialist markets would offer developers the opportunity to scale gradually. By contrast, the billion-dollar bill of bringing new technology direct to mainstream markets remains a significant hurdle.

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The MIT team highlighted how perovskite solar developers are struggling to bring a product to market, and cited the efforts of Oxford PV, Swift Solar and Saules Technologies to manufacture perovskite cells. Oxford PV was highlighted as the perovskite company which has raised the most money to date. In October, the German-British start-up placed the first of a planned series of equipment orders with Meyer Burger for a turnkey, 100 MW silicon heterojunction manufacturing line.

“It’s a way for them to prove their technology, both technically and by actually building and selling a product and making sure it survives in the field,” said MIT research co-author Ian Mathews, “and also, just to prove that you can manufacture at a certain price point.”

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