BRUSSEL, Belgium, Nov. 21, 2008 – Scientists of the European Commission-financed project, Fullspectrum, have developed photovoltaic (PV) multi-junction (MJ) solar cells that are able to convert 39.7 percent of solar energy into electricity. According to researchers, this is the highest percentage ever reached in Europe.
The main barrier to large-scale deployment of PV systems is the high production cost of electricity, due to the significant capital investment costs. Strides are being made to reduce manufacturing costs and to raise the efficiency of the cells. Today conventional PV cells made of silicon are converting roughly 17 percent, only a fraction of the solar light spectrum.
Fullspectrum’s multi-junction solar cells are able to catch more sun light energy due to their composition of different materials, including gallium, phosphorus, indium and germanium. These multi-junction solar cells are expensive and have only been used for applications in space. However, the cost can be considerably reduced by arranging them in special panels, which include lenses that focus a large amount of solar energy onto the cells. These concentrators can reach far above 1000 times the natural solar power flux and have also been the object of the project research.
Fullspectrum is an integrated project involving 19 European public and industrial research centers from seven EU Member States, as well as Russia and Switzerland. It is coordinated by the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Instituto de Energía Solar and started in November 2003, with an overall budget of $18.4 million of witch the European Commission financed $10.5 million.
Since the start of the Framework Progamme 6 in 2002, the European Commission has spent more than $131.5 million in research on photovoltaic energy since. Much of the work has focused on reducing production costs of silicon solar cells.
As part of the European Union Energy and Climate Package, one goal is the increase the level of renewable energy by 20 percent by the year 2020. To achieve this, the European Commission started the Strategic Energy Technology (SET)-Plan.
For more information, visit ec.europa.eu