37th EU PVSEC, 07 - 11 September 2020

14 August 2018

35th EU PVSEC 2018 - The conference plenaries preview by Dr. Heinz Ossenbrink / part 1

The EU PVSEC in September 2018 will display all aspects of the very dynamic development of Photovoltaic Solar Energy. This development is characterised again of being very technology rich and very innovative, as the positive market conditions allow to bring recent R&D achievements rapidly into the market. The market itself has two facets which play in parallel. One being the ever decreasing prices at large utility scale tenders under “Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)”, being below 30 EUR/MWh for sunny countries, but even in Germany undercutting onshore wind energy with PPAs below 40 EUR/MWh. The second one are large, policy assisted deployment programmes in all major economies around the world, which keep production rates high, are however often subject to changes in policies. PV industries seem to be robust enough to cope with this market variability, but needs to lower prices in situations of too high production capacity:

Because of its meanwhile surprisingly low electricity production costs there is no doubt among experts (see for instance plenary session 7EP1 on Friday) that PV will be the major electricity- or even energy- source by the middle of this century, if the challenges of its intermittency and seasonal variation can be resolved at reasonable cost. A smart energy system will be at the heart of such solutions, intelligently matching supply and demand, making best use of low cost storage not only by battery technology, but by any other storage or conversion technology with advanced maturity.

Europe is not the number one when it comes to deployment of PV in 2017. With the 2017 PV deployment champions being China, the United States and India, Europe is only number four with a bit more than 8 GW of installations, which is, however, a rise of almost 30% on top of 2016. But Europe excels in research and development, and during the EU PVSEC there will be ample prove of it.

The concept of the EU PVSEC has always encompassed a number of plenary presentations which play a particular in such a scientific conference: They serve for a bringing the state-of-the-art knowledge to the wider audience, and are scheduled without any other oral or visual presentations in parallel. International renowned scientists provide insight, often in keynote lectures and invited presentations. Following all plenaries gives the participant an excellent opportunity to get briefed in depth about the overall progress of photovoltaic solar energy conversion.

The conference plenaries are pre-viewed around the three strands of photovoltaics, exposed in more detail now:

Strand 1: Science & Technology of PV Conversion

Strand 2: PV Electricity Systems

Strand 3: PV as Energy Source


Strand 1: Science & Technology of PV Conversion

PLENARY SESSION 1AP.1 Routes to High Efficiency Photovoltaics
PLENARY SESSION 2BP.1 Silicon Photovoltaics
PLENARY SESSIONS 3CP.1 / 4CP.2 Progress in Thin Film PV / Progress in Concentrating PV

As a tradition of the EU PVSEC since 1997, the conference starts on Monday morning with the plenary on recent advances of PV conversion science and technology and on future developments. It is one of the “Must be there” events of the conference. This year the PLENARY SESSION 1AP.1 is titled “Routes to High Efficiency Photovoltaics”, and will cover three material avenues. One, more classical is about solving a long standing lack of market readiness compound (III-V) materials due to the difficult deposition on cheap substrates.

The presentation 1AP.1.1 Hybrid III-V/SiGe Solar Cells Grown on Si Substrates through Aggressive Buffer Layers by the Spanish research group at UPM will give the details of a new and promising approach to solve the lattice-matching issue. At the heart of the solution seems to be to manufacture low-cost SiGe substrates.

Since five years the new material combinations realized by Perovskites increase efficiencies significantly, and so in the plenary 1AP.1.2 High-Efficiency Monolithic Perovskite/Silicon Tandem Solar Cells we expect a good insight brought by the Swiss research groups at CSEM and EPFL. On top of a broader overview on the progress of this most recent photovoltaic material they will present their approaches of adopting conventional manufacturing to the needs of Perovskite thin films which should eventually lead to better than 22% efficient cells and the upscale of the manufacturing.

Plenary 1AP.1.3 Electronic Ratchets as Necessary Stepping Stones for New PV Concepts by a French/ Japanese research consortium has an interesting title. What are Electronic Ratchets? The plenary will explain a new approach for realising intermediate band-gap solar cells, which shall allow to increase efficiency by converting also low-energy (ultra-red) photons. It is so far very theoretical but will explain how to overcome the current difficulties with nanostructured intermediate band gaps

The plenary session concludes, with the plenary 1AP.1.4 Current Overview of PV Technologies and Visions for the Future by Martin Green from UNSW Sydney. This is almost as well a tradition in the EU PVSEC since 1997 as well, as Prof Green is always good both for a complete overview and also surprises and new vistas.

The bulk of today’s photovoltaic modules (more than 90%) are made from crystalline Silicon wafers, based on the most mature and reliable manufacturing systems and good material availability. In consequence, PLENARY SESSION 2BP.1 Silicon Photovoltaics is about the current trends ofproduction technologies for higher efficiency silicon solar cells. The first presentation, 2BP.1.1 Learning from the Past to Look Beyond the Roadmap of PERC Si Solar Cell Mass Production by a market leader from China is representative for the current trend to highly efficient PERC cells, and how to mass produce them. The presentation will compare the PERC technologies with other current mass-produced technologies, and in addition also with the prospects of Perovskites. The analysis of the speed of efficiency improvements over time will certainly give interesting insights, for instance about when PERC technology will reach its ultimate efficiency and what could be envisaged beyond.

Another important manufacturing step, the wafering is looked closer in 2BP.1.2 titled Inline Characterization of Diamond Wire Sawn Multicrystalline Silicon Wafers by a German research/industry consortium, which studied the specific effects of diamond wire on the surface quality of multicrystalline wafers. The presentation will give insight in their in-line monitoring of the sawing quality, which needed adaptation compared to the traditional slurry wire process.

The session features in presentation 2BP.1.3 an Overview of Cell Fabrication Options for Thin (< 50 μm) Kerfless Epitaxial Silicon Foils. The researchers from Belgium, Austria and Germany present both free-standing and foil-substrate based manufacturing for cells and modules. In their talk they will evaluate the different methods to handle these fragile cells in an industrial manufacturing environment.

A European funded large and ongoing cooperation is presented in 2BP.1.4 Status of the EU H2020 Disc Project: European Collaboration in Research and Development of High Efficient Double Side Contacted Cells with Innovative Carrier-Selective Contacts. Partners from 13 Institutes across 8 countries are currently developing double-sided Silicon cells, aiming to achieving more than 25% with carrier-selective contacts. These cells do not need a patterned collection grid, instead the a thin TCO layer will allow to apply smart-wire technology for interconnection on a module level. The audience will be informed about the progress, and the efficiencies achieved so far.

The session on Silicon Photovoltaics ends with 2BP.1.5 Silicon Solar Cells by "DESIJN". This presentation has been selected because of its in-depth coverage about the methoids of producing thin Silicon foils. The term “DESIJN” stands for “Deposited Silicon Junctions”, which will described the novelty of physical vapor depositing a thin layer of Silicon as opposed to chemical or plasma deposition methods, including the dopant elements. The presenter will probably announce to have achieved at least 23% efficiency with this approach, by sputtering on an ultra-thin SiOx inter-layer.

What is not made of crystalline silicon in today’s PV production, will be presented in Plenary Session 3CP.1 Progress in Thin Film PV. The session opens with an invited keynote presentation 3CP.1.1 Characterization and New Concepts Applied to Cu(In,Ga)Se2 Solar Cells: Advancements through EU Project Sharc25, which summarises the progress and findings of a large EU funded project. Researchers from eight European countries go in depth with new concepts for CIGS thin-film technologies, and they can present the contributions of, for instance, the CIGS/ buffer interfaces to record efficiencies of this thin film technology. Amongst other EU-funded projects in this 2018 conference programme the presentation will be also exemplary for the added value a truly European research approach has.

Also on CIGS technology, the Swedish / German group of Solibro will present you the latest on their next generation production in the talk 3CP.1.2 with the unpretentious title CIGS Productive Technology above 18%. In fact, one can expect the announcement of a new world record on a almost 1m2 production module, a leap compared to the 16.5% in current production.

The plenaries on thin films concludes with the Dutch / Flemish presentation 3CP.1.3 titled Large Area (>140 cm2) Perovskite Solar Modules Made by Sheet to Sheet and Roll to Roll Fabrication with 14.5% Efficiency. It will be quite exciting considering that only recently module production using Perovskites was not yet really successful. Both the roll-to-roll and sheet-to sheet processes have been developed by the new Solliance industrial consortium and are geared towards a scalable deposition technique for large areas. In spring this year the group achieved almost 14% stabilized efficiency on 144cm2 mini-modules, one can expect further improvements by the time of the conference.

In this plenary session, at the end there will be another larger, EU-funded project on concentrator technology presented. Germany, Italy, Spain and France formed the consortium which will present 4CP.2.1 Final Results of CPVMatch - Concentrating Photovoltaic Modules Using Advanced Technologies and Cells for Highest Efficiencies. The project reported in this plenary developed some innovative multi-junction architectures and improved optical and interconnection designs, targeting better spectral matching and cost effective production. The consortium will most likely announce record efficiencies of 41 % at 400x concentration, but is aiming even at 46%. This is the Formula 1 of the PV race for efficiency, and it is absolutely worthwhile to listen!




Heinz was until his retirement 2016 Head of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Unit of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. He began in 1982 to build up the European Solar Test Installation (ESTI) to assist the development of PV technology with measurements and tests. With his team, he gave much scientific support to the formulation of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency policies of the European Commission. He served the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition as Technical Programme Coordinator from 1994 until 2010, and was twice also its General Chair. During his whole carrier he was devoted to the standardisation of PV technology at the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which he served also as chairman from 2004 until 2016.