Last week, Longi Green Energy Technology made headlines by announcing that its solar panels have broken another world record for energy conversion efficiency. Despite the groundbreaking news, it will be a while until consumers see cheaper electricity bills. Also, global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change might get a boost from this development, analysts said.
S&P Global’s senior solar and clean energy technology analyst, Karl Melkonyan, expressed his approval of the recent progress in the industry. Longi is able to produce solar cells on a single production line with a capacity of several hundred megawatts, but it will take some time to increase production and reduce costs, he said. A solar panel contains multiple solar cells that are encased in a frame.
According to Melkonyan, the Heterojunction technology that is responsible for the ground-breaking efficiency must be cost competitive with both the widely used passivated emitter and rear contact and the newly developed tunnel oxide passivated contacts technologies.
According to the International Energy Agency, in the next three years, renewable energy sources – mainly solar and wind power – will satisfy over 70% of China’s additional electricity demand. The nation has pledged to peak its coal consumption by 2025 and carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 as part of global efforts to mitigate climate change.
Longi’s HJT silicon solar cells have been shown to be 26.81 percent effective in turning sunlight into electricity, as stated in a Saturday statement by the company. They received this certification from Germany’s Institute for Solar Energy Research in Hamelin. With just a little over one month of research and development, the team has broken world records three times for efficiency- moving from 26.74 up to 26.81 percent, as Longi stated.
Longi’s success will be reflected in the next edition of efficiency tables that tracks the development of the PV industry, Shanghai-listed firm quoted Michael Green, a renowned figure in this area who is also known as “the father of photovoltaics”, during a ceremony where they announced their record. For 39 out of the last 40 years, the professor at Australia’s University of New South Wales held the world record for silicon solar cell efficiency.
91.2% of all silicon solar panels produced globally last year were a result of the PERC solar cell he invented in 1983, as stated by the China Photovoltaic Industry Association. When cells are assembled into panels, their conversion efficiency is reduced by 2-3%. Melkonyan stated that future HJT panels are likely to have efficiencies of around 23 percent compared to today’s market standards of 20-21 percent.
According to him, a 3 percent reduction in electricity generation cost is possible with each percentage point of efficiency improvement. Although more efficient modules are pricier and would escalate the initial infrastructure costs, this could be countered by the savings on transportation, installation, operations and maintenance.
However, it is difficult to estimate future cost reduction since a lot of electricity is consumed during the manufacturing process of solar components. For example, said Frank Haugwitz- founder of the Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory- aluminium used in support structures and ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) used to seal solar cells into panels have become more expensive due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In addition, higher prices for materials affect costs as well.
He doesn’t anticipate HJT panels to start having gains in market share until 2024, which means that regular people will have to wait longer for modules like these to be accessible.“At the 1,000 megawatts production level, you start feeling like you’re mass-producing.”