Photovoltaic research is heavily driven by market demand and "green-energy" hopes of the future. Commercial and utility level thin film photovoltaic systems have almost reached grid parity worldwide, but the residential market, mainly comprised of crystalline and polycrystalline silicon, has been left behind. Because area is constrained in a residential system, these higher efficiency silicon modules are used to achieve desirable electricity levels. Despite higher efficiencies than industrial thin films, current technologies of crystalline Silicon (c-Si and Sanyo cells) residential systems need to be researched further or refined in order to reach grid parity. By surveying the current market and economy of residential photovoltaic systems, the capital cost was broken down into system parts and module manufacturing processes. A Levelized Cost of Energy calculator was used with these figures to find where research could be focused to bring solar energy costs down. With a 1% increase in module efficiency, it was found that the cost of energy was only affected by 1 cent/kWh. This is indicative that research into more cost efficient manufacturing is the key to cutting photovoltaic energy prices: particularly in wafer and module conversion. However, more significant cost reduction could result from research in cheaply increasing the operational time of the cell despite the slight increase in system costs.
Greg T. Forcherio is currently a NSF Grade Research Fellow at the University of Arkansas. This work was completed as a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow at Purdue University for the Network for Photovoltaic Technology under Dr. Mark Lundstrom.
Network for Photovoltaic Technology Purdue University
Gregory T. Forcherio (2011), "LCOE Calculator," DOI: 10254/nanohub-r11406.4. (DOI: 10254/nanohub-r11406.4).
Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN