TaiyangNews 3-day virtual conference titled What’s Hot in European Solar R&D had an insightful day 1 on June 28, 2021 when several European industry players and research institutes discussed the progress in high efficiency solar cells and modules reached under European Union (EU) funded Horizon 2020 projects namely GoPV, HighLite, HIPERION and SUPER PV (see Day 1: TaiyangNews What’s Hot In European Solar R&D).
Day 2 on June 29, 2021 focused on advanced manufacturing in terms of equipment, modules, BOS components to understand how to make European solar PBV manufacturing industry more competitive.
Introducing the conference on day 2 was Julius DenafasDirector of R&D at Lithuania based module manufacturer SoliTek and SUPER PV Project Coordinator, who, while applauding the work being done by research institutes and commercial companies in the space of PV manufacturing in the continent, pointed out that advanced technologies require advanced production capabilities and other components in the PV value chain.
Erika Saretta, Research Engineer with Swiss university of applied sciences Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera italiana (SUPSI), stressed on the importance of digitalization and information management—under SUPER PV project—as drivers to support cost-reduction of PV technology. What the team refers to as the PV information management (PIM) approach, it is supporting an integrated and interoperable PV process with feedback loops from system operation to component production to achieve cost reduction
Also working on the SUPER PV project Scientist Xiang Ma of Norwegian independent research organization SINTEF reflected on the significance of digitalization and presented the benefits, taking module lamination as an example and showed the data management in the space of the lamination process; moreover, he showed crack detection in solar cells contributing to the EU project’s PV cost reduction efforts.
Vice President R&D of Finland based IBC solar cell and module producer Valoe’s Oyj’s Tuukka Savisalo, working on the HighLite project, said the IBC cell is an excellent building block for product integrated PV as it offers clean uniform appearance along with higher efficiency both of which are the ‘most critical points’ in many consumer applications. Savisalo added that vertically integrated production with flexible production platforms offer extensive customization capabilities. Valoe is using the IBC technology developed at ISC Konstanz.
Speaking about its collaboration in the HighLite project, 3D-Micromac’s Head of Department Michael Grimm said his company is developing a novel HighThroughput cell slicing tool with throughput of up to 6,400 wph which will be available for demonstration and application from autumn 2021. The tool is is highly compatible with shingling process. This 3D-Micromac’s cell slicer uses a non-destructive cutting technology called TLC stands for Thermal Laser Cutting and the importance of such a high tech cutting machine is required for advanced module concepts such as shingling, which requires to strip the cells into several pieces.
While cutting is one part of shingling, interconnection of the cells is even more critical with it, and US based Applied Materials is a collaborator on this part as part of the HighLite project. Lorenzo Cerasti Product Manager at Applied Solar‘s PV equipment production unit Baccini in Italy shared that the company is improving its wafer capability of its shingling interconnection tool to M12 from the current M6, and gross throughput to 6,000 wph from 4,000 wph now.
Full fabrication process for hybrid PV modules combining PV & CPV technologies on an industrial scale is the objective with which HIPERION and CSEM are working together. CSEM’s R&D Engineer Delphine Petri said the institute is setting up a pilot line with a capacity to produce 100 m² modules, to demonstrate the assembly of these modules made of traditional solar cells and CPV cells. She presented a very detailed process flow to manufacture these hybrid modules designed by Swiss company Insight. Pilot installations are being carried out to validate the performance and reliability efficacy of such modules. The project partners eventually aim to produce a highly efficient hybrid module with efficiency of over 30% under direct sunlight and 17% under diffuse sunlight.
Giuseppe Demofonti, Senior Consultant with Italian tracker maker Convertitalia, said that as partner of EU Horizon 2020’s GoPV project his company is introducing a new tracker design and tracking strategy targeting bifacial installations, which he believes will reduce the LCOE and LCA of large PV plants. He also looked into different material properties in this regard. To consolidate the results of the R&D effort, Demofonti said the tracker design needs to be certified basis international standards.
Italian research company Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico’s (RSE) Energy Engineer Eduardo Celi spoke about dynamic maximum power point tracking (MPPT) algorithm developed by the company as a research partner of GoPV which he argued could be very useful in the future for VIPV and concentrated PV technologies. It can be implemented in the firmware of inverters already installed ‘in order to carry out low-cost repowering and revamping operations’, added Celi.
Panel discussion
Moderated by CEO of RCT Solutions GmbH Peter Fath, the panel discussion on day 2 of the conference revolved around ways to make European PV manufacturing industry more competitive holistically. The panel agreed Europe has competence in terms of technical know-how, thanks to extensive research being carried out in the continent in this space, yet more needs to be done to advance the industry supply chain locally.
Vice President R&D at Valoe Oyj, Tuukka Savisalo agreed there is competence, but it won’t bring in several GW big industry infrastructure. It needs to be nurtured, with leading players encouraging the growth of smaller players to build a resilient local supply chain which will eventually bring down costs. He said that locally made products, depending on markets and segment, could be sold at twice the price of standard Asian products.
However, CSEM’s Director of CSEM PV-Center Christophe Ballif differed somewhat that a market survey resulted in the willingness to pay up to 20% for locally made products in the residential segment. He believes there is a growing market for Made in Europe solar products, even if these come with a higher price margin. He also added that along with technical capabilities, Europe also needs financial capabilities to make it big like its Chinese counterparts and, moreover, differentiate through very sustainable products.
Proximity to a vibrant research community in Europe gives the PV industry an edge to present better machines, shared 3D-Micromac’s Head of Department Michael Grimm who also pointed out that starting of domestic PV production in some parts of Europe is a good start but to be able to reach the levels of Chinese or other Asian players, policymakers need to recognize the significance of supporting the development of a robust solar industry in the continent.
Senior Consultant of Convertitalia Giuseppe Demofonti echoed the panel sentiment that Europe often still leads when it comes to PV research, nonetheless it should be encouraged to move out from labs to the market quickly instead of taking years to reach there.
Last and final day of the conference on June 30, 2021 will be dedicated to bringing LCOE down through PV systems. The agenda has further details of various sessions planned. Registrations can be done for free here.