Technological Learning in the Energy Sector

Technological Learning in the Energy Sector

Lessons for Policy, Industry and Science

Edited by Martin Junginger, Wilfried van Sark and André Faaij

Technological learning is a key driver behind the improvement of energy technologies and subsequent reduction of production costs. Understanding how and why production costs for energy technologies decline, and whether they will continue to do so in the future, is of crucial importance for policy makers, industrial stakeholders and scientists alike. This timely and informative book therefore provides a comprehensive review of technological development and cost reductions for renewable energy, clean fossil fuel and energy-efficient demand-side technologies.

Chapter 8: Photovoltaic Solar Energy

Wilfried van Sark, Gregory Nemet, Gerrit Jan Schaeffer and Erik Alsema

Subjects: economics and finance, energy economics, environment, energy policy and regulation, innovation and technology, technology and ict

Extract

Wilfried van Sark, Gregory Nemet, Gerrit Jan Schaeffer and Erik Alsema 8.1 INTRODUCTION Photovoltaic (PV) technology involves the direct conversion of (sun) light into electrical energy. It generally exploits semiconductor materials in various device configurations to create and collect charged carriers from light. Although Becquerel had discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1839 (Butti and Perlin, 1980), it took until 1954 before the first semiconductor p–n junction solar cell was developed at Bell Laboratories (Butti and Perlin, 1980; Chapin et al., 1954). At present, the most common material used in PV technology is silicon (Van Sark et al., 2007), with a market share of over 95 per cent. Solar cells are based on mono- and multicrystalline material (silicon, III-Vs), and amorphous or microcrystalline thin films (silicon, II-VIs). Other thin film technologies include Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) or combinations of Copper, Indium, Gallium and Selenide (CIGS). Emerging technologies employ nanosized plastic materials. Commercial PV cells have efficiencies from 5 to 20 per cent, while the maximum laboratory efficiencies have surpassed the 40 per cent barrier (Green et al., 2009); the Carnot thermodynamic limit is 95 per cent (Marti and Luque, 2004). Current research is focused on increasing the conversion efficiency of PV cells, where so-called third- or next-generation approaches are needed (Green, 2003a; Martí and Luque, 2004). PV cells employing light concentration of up to 1000 times are increasingly employed in regions with abundant direct sunlight, although deployment of these systems remains small relative to non-concentrating PV. PV systems are comprised of...

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