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Chapter 3

irradiation, electrolyte leakage and high ambient temperatures continue to be key issues in commercializing these PV cells.

Organic PV (OPV) cells use stacked solid organic semiconductors, either polymers or small organic molecules. A typical structure of a small- molecule OPV cell consists of a stack of p-type and n-type organic semiconductors forming a planar heterojunction. The short-lived nature of the tightly bound electron-hole pairs (excitons) formed upon light absorption limits the thickness of the semiconductor layers that can be used—and therefore, the efficiency of such devices. Note that excitons need to move to the interface where positive and negative charges can be separated before they recombine. If the travel distance is short, the ‘active’ thickness of material is small and not all light can be absorbed within that thickness.

The efficiency achieved with single-junction OPV cells is about 5% (Li et al., 2005), although predictions indicate about twice that value or higher can be achieved (Forrest, 2005; Koster et al., 2006). To decouple exciton transport distances from optical thickness (light absorption), so-called bulk-heterojunction devices have been developed. In these devices, the absorption layer is made of a nanoscale mixture of p- and n-type materials to allow excitons to reach the interface within their lifetime, while also enabling a sufficient macroscopic layer thickness. This bulk- heterojunction structure plays a key role in improving the efficiency, to a record value of 7.9% in 2009 (Green et al., 2010a). The developments in cost and processing (Brabec, 2004; Krebs, 2005) of materials have caused OPV research to advance further. Also, the main development challenge is to achieve a sufficiently high stability in combination with a reasonable efficiency.

Novel photovoltaic technologies

Novel technologies are potentially disruptive (high-risk, high-potential) approaches based on new materials, devices and conversion concepts. Generally, their practically achievable conversion efficiencies and cost structure are still unclear. Examples of these approaches include inter- mediate-band semiconductors, hot-carrier devices, spectrum converters, plasmonic solar cells, and various applications of quantum dots (Section 3.7.3). The emerging technologies described in the previous section pri- marily aim at very low cost, while achieving a sufficiently high efficiency and stability. However, most of the novel technologies aim at reaching very high efficiencies by making better use of the entire solar spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet.

Photovoltaic systems

A photovoltaic system is composed of the PV module, as well as the balance of system (BOS) components, which include an inverter, storage devices, charge controller, system structure, and the energy network.The system must be reliable, cost effective, attractive and match with the electric grid in the future (US Photovoltaic Industry Roadmap Steering

Direct Solar Energy

Committee, 2001; Navigant Consulting Inc., 2006; EU PV European Photovoltaic Technology Platform, 2007; Kroposki et al., 2008; NEDO, 2009).

At the component level,BOS components for grid-connected applications are not yet sufficiently developed to match the lifetime of PV modules. Additionally, BOS component and installation costs need to be reduced. Moreover, devices for storing large amounts of electricity (over 1 MWh or 3,600 MJ) will be adapted to large PV systems in the new energy network.As new module technologies emerge in the future, some of the ideas relating to BOS may need to be revised. Furthermore, the quality of the system needs to be assured and adequately maintained according to defined standards, guidelines and procedures. To ensure system qual- ity, assessing performance is important, including on-line analysis (e.g., early fault detection) and off-line analysis of PV systems.The knowledge gathered can help to validate software for predicting the energy yield of future module and system technology designs.

To increasingly penetrate the energy network, PV systems must use technology that is compatible with the electric grid and energy supply and demand. System designs and operation technologies must also be developed in response to demand patterns by developing technology to forecast the power generation volume and to optimize the storage func- tion. Moreover, inverters must improve the quality of grid electricity by controlling reactive power or filtering harmonics with communication in a new energy network that uses a mixture of inexpensive and effective communications systems and technologies, as well as smart meters (see Section 8.2.1).

Photovoltaic applications

Photovoltaic applications include PV power systems classified into two major types: those not connected to the traditional power grid (i.e., off-grid applications) and those that are connected (i.e., grid-connected applica- tions). In addition, there is a much smaller, but stable, market segment for consumer applications.

Off-grid PV systems have a significant opportunity for economic appli- cation in the un-electrified areas of developing countries. Figure 3.6 shows the ratio of various off-grid and grid-connected systems in the Photovoltaic Power Systems (PVPS) Programme countries. Of the total capacity installed in these countries during 2009, only about 1.2% was installed in off-grid systems that now make up 4.2% of the cumulative installed PV capacity of the IEA PVPS countries (IEA, 2010e).

Off-grid centralized PV mini-grid systems have become a reliable alter- native for village electrification over the last few years. In a PV mini-grid system, energy allocation is possible. For a village located in an isolated area and with houses not separated by too great a distance, the power may flow in the mini-grid without considerable losses. Centralized systems for local power supply have different technical advantages con- cerning electrical performance, reduction of storage needs, availability


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