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.
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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The conclusions of this paper may be outdated.
Previous PV thin-film startups were based on multifaceted materials, employing high cost semiconductor machinery and processes resulting in complexity, slow throughput, low yield and high cost.
Perovskite is a material that can enable high efficiency PV modules using very low cost, existing printing and coating manufacturing lines and techniques. This model lowers both scale-up to full scale manufacturing and accelerates the path to commercial product,
My advisory work over the last 18 months Energy Materials Corporation (EMC) has proven to this thin-film scarred PV veteran (CIGS & a-Si startup involvement in the 2,000’s) that when using existing photographic film printing equipment and production lines, high performance solar modules can be printed at speeds greater than 50’ per minute resulting in significantly lower product cost. More importantly, the new factory build CapEx is 95% lower. A 3GW EMC greenfield factory costs less than $150M vs. $1.6B for a silicon based factory supply chain. This is based on 80+ years of high speed roll-to-roll printing history and not a back of napkin swag.
Given the rapid acceleration of the climate collapse, this is not the time for small scale, go slow thinking for perovskite efforts. With MIT/NREL 2016 research on the capital intensity of silicon manufacturing concluding that the silicon module may not scale beyond 5% of global energy (when it needs to 20% or greater) to meet the U.N.’s zero emissions targets, perovskite is a timely gift to the PV industry. To meet 20% of global energy with PV, it requires > 300GW of annual module capacity from now until 2040 with ASP’s dropping to below $0.15W. With global silicon PV module capacity currently 95GW, the industry will need an additive and robust perovskite supply chain to meet this large scaling challenge.
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