Singapore lab aims for 30% efficient industrial solar modules

Singapore lab aims for 30% efficient industrial solar modules

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

The first flagship project is to develop a 30% efficient thin-film-on-silicon tandem solar cell in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) of Singapore’s National Research Foundation

The practical efficiency of silicon solar cells is limited to about 28% under natural sunlight, whereby the world record efficiency is 26.6% at present. Boosting the efficiency above the 30% threshold requires a second solar cell on top to harvest more of the incoming light, and the most promising way to do this is to combine a thin-film top cell with a silicon bottom cell.

NTU and CREATE will develop the thin-film top cells, while SERIS, part of the National University of Singapore, will develop optimised silicon bottom cells. Both III-V materials and perovskite materials will be investigated as top-cell materials. Multi-junction silicon  cells have recently demonstrated over 33% efficincy. 

SERIS is also working on low-cost, high-efficiency building-integrated PV (BIPV) modules and systems to replace parts of the building envelope with PV, including the facades. This is particularly important in Singapore, where there is an existing building stock of more than 100,000 units and little land for utility-scale groundmounted PV systems, so the vast majority of Singapore’s PV capacity will be installed on top of, or attached to buildings. While roof-top PV systems are standard commercial practice, adding PV to the facade of existing or new buildings poses more challenges due to building regulations and lower irradiance reaching the vertical parts of a building.

The lab will be working on high-efficiency, light-weight solar technologies that are aesthetically pleasing and yet economically viable. Such BIPV technologies open up new business opportunities as they possess immediate commercialisation and export potential.

Next: Offshore floating PV farms and 3D city modelling 

At the same time it is working on a multi-purpose floating PV system that is suitable for off-shore applications in sheltered waters. The lab is recognised as the global leader in R&D on “Floating Solar”, operating the world’s largest testbed at Tengeh reservoir. The aim is to have “energy islands” in the future which will supply energy to nearby industrial zones or living areas.

Other research projects include the development of industrial silicon wafer solar cells, industrial PV module development and testing and “Urban solar” initiatives with 3D city modelling of Singapore with detailed solar potential for each individual rooftop. SERIS will also develop new ways to deploy the PV systems across the city state, such as in facades, walkways or as fences or sound barriers.

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