Disruptive Solar Technologies versus the State of the Art
Does the industry need new, disruptive solar technologies? I will approach this question by reviewing (1) the historically declining manufacturing costs for mainstream silicon photovoltaic modules, and (2) recent performance breakthroughs of cadmium telluride technology, which have surpassed the efficiency records of both multicrystalline-silicon research cells and full-area photovoltaic modules. Within this context, I will discuss the promise and perhaps false hopes of several potentially disruptive technologies, such as new absorber materials, printable functional materials, and tandem module architectures.
Dr. Dirk Weiss is Senior Technologist at First Solar, where he is responsible for techno-economic analysis of new technologies, both within and beyond solar photovoltaics. He holds undergraduate and master’s level degrees in Physics from Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, and a doctorate (Dr. rer. nat., Summa cum Laude) in Materials Science from the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart, Germany; he was also a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His work experience spans both academia and industry—ranging from a startup to a conglomerate (United Technologies Corp.). His technical expertise includes renewable energy systems (photovoltaics, energy storage), nanotechnology, and material characterization.