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Development and current research
Photovoltaic solar energy — Development and current research
Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Union
2009 — 76 pp. — 21 x 29.7 cm
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It is with great pleasure that we present this synopsis – emissions from energy systems and strengthen its indus-
– Photovoltaic solar energy: development and
trial basis, thus also creating new skil ed jobs.
current research – il ustrating the results of various
projects carried out under the European Union (EU)
In this context, photovoltaics offers a key solution due to
Framework Programmes for Research, Technological
its unique features. Photovoltaic technology is safe, clean,
Development and Demonstration Activities.
robust and proven to be efficient and highly scalable.
Photovoltaics is easy to introduce and implement all over
The impressive progress of the photovoltaic sector in
the world, in both developed and developing countries.
recent years is a clear justification for this publication.
In addition, photovoltaics is already associated with
The European Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan –
a fast-growing and dynamic industry. This success story
proposed by the European Commission in order to accel-
has been driven both by national support schemes and
erate the availability of low-carbon energy technologies
first-class research and demonstration. The European
– has already established the European Solar Initiative, as
Commission strongly supports the development of the
one of the industrial initiatives in the six energy sectors
photovoltaic sector in its policy measures, and also in
most relevant for Europe.
its research and demonstration activities.
It is essential that solar energy and renewable energy
Photovoltaic electricity costs are becoming more and
sources are increasingly used as a part of the EU’s strategy
more competitive. A stronger effort towards further
to improve the security of the energy supplies and reduce
development and technological innovation will make
the impact of energy production and consumption.
the sector more productive and competitive, and accel-
erate its evolution. As a result, the whole community
Renewable technologies are a clear opportunity for
will benefit from the increasing possibility that photo-
Europe to establish and reinforce a competitive edge
voltaic energy wil be able to contribute substantial y to
in a highly innovative industrial sector. It is currently in
EU electricity generation by 2020.
a position to lead the worldwide effort to reduce harmful
European Commissioner for Energy
European Commissioner for Research
Table of contents
Photovoltaic technology ...5
Photovoltaic market development ...7
Demonstration projects ... 11
Novel and emerging concepts
BiThink ... 12
FULLSPECTRUM ... 49
highSol ... 14
HiconPV ... 51
HIGHSPEEDCIGS ... 16
MOLYCELL ... 52
Lab2Line ... 18
orgaPVnet ... 54
PV-EMPLOYMENT ... 20
PV-MIPS ... 22
Coordinated research activities
SELFLEX ... 24
PERFORMANCE ... 56
SOLAR PLOTS ... 26
PV-ERA-NET ... 58
Solsilc Demonstrator ... 28
PV-SEC ... 60
SUNRISE ... 30
UPP-Sol ... 32
New materials, technologies and processes
BUILD-DSSC ... 62
Research projects ...35
NANOPHOTO ... 63
Thin-ﬁ lm technologies
SOLARPLAS ... 64
ATHLET ... 36
BIPV-CIS ... 38
PV components and smart grid issues
FLEXCELLENCE ... 39
OPTISUN ... 66
LARCIS ... 41
SOS-PV ... 67
LPAMS ... 42
SE-PowerFoil ... 43
Market transformation ...69
deSOLaSOL ... 70
Wafer-based crystalline silicon
PURE ... 71
CrystalClear ... 45
PV POLICY GROUP ... 73
FoXy ... 47
PV-UP-SCALE ... 74
Acknowledgements ... 76
Over the last decade, European photovoltaic This synopsis describes the projects funded under
companies have achieved an average annual
FP6, in the research, development and demonstration
production growth rate of over 40 %. Currently
domain, their aims and the achieved results. In addi-
the turnover of the photovoltaic industry amounts
tion, it outlines four photovoltaic projects funded under
to some EUR 10 bil ion. The European market is character-
the first Intelligent Energy – Europe programme (IEE-I,
ised by a dominant German market while other European
2003-06) which tackles the ‘softer’, non-technological
countries – like Spain, Italy, France and Greece – have
factors and ran in paral el with FP6.
recently boosted their share. For the whole European
Union (EU), approximately 70 000 people are employed
The impact of EU programmes on the development of
by the photovoltaic sector. Although productivity in the
photovoltaics can be examined on several levels. The
photovoltaic industry progresses with automated produc-
announcement of champion cell efficiencies achieved
tion and reduced unit and system costs, the rapid market
in EU projects is an obvious indicator. Indeed one key
growth wil create new jobs in Europe.
impact, which arguably only really began to manifest
itself within the current environment of dynamic market
Support for the research, development and demonstra-
growth, is the creation of know-how, resulting in start-up
tion of new energy technologies is available through the
companies. For example, many of the European compa-
EU Framework Programme (FP) for research. Through
nies producing thin-film photovoltaics have their origins
a series of research FPs, the European Commission has
in EU projects. There is also significant anecdotal evidence
maintained long-term support for research, development
that start-up companies receiving support from EU RD&D
and demonstration in the photovoltaic sector, providing
projects can successfully attract investment from larger
a framework within which researchers and industry can
companies that are looking to broaden their technology
work together to develop photovoltaic technology and
portfolio. FP6 coincided with a remarkable period of
applications. Within the 6th Framework Programme
sustained high growth of photovoltaics. As a result of
(FP6, 2003-06), the European Commission committed
such growth, the role and objectives of European RD&D
EUR 105.6 million for supporting photovoltaic research,
have been re-examined, with the aim of maximising the
development and demonstration (RD&D) thus continuing
effect of available public funds, including national and
co-financing the development of solar electricity in Europe.
regional funds. Two initiatives – the European Photo-
voltaic Technology Platform and PV-ERA-NET – which
began during FP6, have been active in recent years in
improving the overall coordination of the photovoltaic
sector at European level.
The budget for the 7th Framework Programme
The potential of solar electricity and its contribution to
(FP7, 2007-13) has significantly risen compared with
the EU’s electricity generation for 2020 has recently been
the previous programme, and will run for seven years.
reassessed by the photovoltaic industry. This ambition
Cal s for proposals based on topics identified in the work
needs now to be made concrete in a realistic European
programme are launched on an annual basis.
Solar Initiative to make the sector realise its full
FP7 has begun with less emphasis on the development
of traditional wafer-based silicon for photovoltaic solar
Variable electricity generation (as with solar photo-
cel s – the focus of increasing R&D investment by compa-
voltaic), at high penetration level, will bring additional
nies and national programmes. Material develop ment
challenges to power systems. Furthermore, quality
for longer-term applications, concentration photo voltaic
and longevity of photovoltaic devices and systems,
and manufacturing process development have attracted
and profitable lifecycle features of whole photovoltaic
most European funding. Furthermore, significant funding
systems, will become increasingly important in such
is expected to be made available for thin-film technology
a highly competitive world market. These are parts of
in future years.
the RD&D needs which future activities should address.
Photovoltaics is the field of technology and research charge carriers (holes) from their negative counterpart
related to the devices which directly convert sunlight
(electrons). In this way an electrical current is extracted
into electricity. The solar cell is the elementary
once the circuit is closed on an external load.
building block of the photovoltaic technology. Solar cel s
are made of semiconductor materials, such as silicon. One
1. Front contact
2. Back contact
of the properties of semiconductors that makes them
3. Antireﬂ ection coating
4. p-type semiconductor
most useful is that their conductivity may easily be modi-
5. n-type semiconductor
fied by introducing impurities into their crystal lattice.
For instance, in the fabrication of a photovoltaic solar
cel , silicon, which has four valence electrons, is treated
to increase its conductivity. On one side of the cel , the
impurities, which are phosphorus atoms with five valence
electrons (n-donor), donate weakly bound valence
electrons to the silicon material, creating excess nega-
tive charge carriers. On the other side, atoms of boron
with three valence electrons (p-donor) create a greater
affinity than silicon to attract electrons. Because the
p-type silicon is in intimate contact with the n-type silicon
a p-n junction is established and a diffusion of elec-
trons occurs from the region of high electron concen-
There are several types of solar cel s. However, more than
tration (the n-type side) into the region of low electron
90 % of the solar cel s currently made worldwide consist
concentration (p-type side). When the electrons diffuse
of wafer-based silicon cells. They are either cut from
across the p-n junction, they recombine with holes
a single crystal rod or from a block composed of many
on the p-type side. However, the diffusion of carriers
crystals and are correspondingly cal ed mono-crystalline
does not occur indefinitely, because the imbalance of
or multi-crystalline silicon solar cells. Wafer-based silicon
charge immediately on either sides of the junction origi-
solar cells are approximately 200 μm thick. Another
nates an electric field. This electric field forms a diode
important family of solar cells is based on thin-films,
that promotes current to flow in only one direction.
which are approximately 1-2 μm thick and therefore
Ohmic metal-semiconductor contacts are made to both
require significantly less active, semiconducting material.
the n-type and p-type sides of the solar cell, and the
Thin-film solar cel s can be manufactured at lower cost
electrodes are ready to be connected to an external load.
in large production quantities; hence their market share
will likely increase in the future. However, they indicate
When photons of light fall on the cell, they transfer
lower efficiencies than wafer-based silicon solar cells,
their energy to the charge carriers. The electric field
which means that more exposure surface and material
across the junction separates photo-generated positive
for the installation is required for a similar performance.
A number of solar cel s electrically connected to each other
There are two main types of photovoltaic system. Grid-
and mounted in a single support structure or frame is
connected systems (on-grid systems) are connected
cal ed a ‘photovoltaic module’. Modules are designed to
to the grid and inject the electricity into the grid. For
supply electricity at a certain voltage, such as a common
this reason, the direct current produced by the solar
12 volt system. The current produced is directly dependent
modules is converted into a grid-compatible alternating
on the intensity of light reaching the module.
current. However, solar power plants can also be oper-
ated without the grid and are then cal ed autonomous
Several modules can be wired together to form an array.
systems (off-grid systems).
Photovoltaic modules and arrays produce direct-current
electricity. They can be connected in both series and
More than 90 % of photovoltaic systems worldwide are
paral el electrical arrangements to produce any required
currently implemented as grid-connected systems. The
voltage and current combination.
power conditioning unit also monitors the functioning
of the system and the grid and switches off the system
in case of faults.
DC to AC
circuit breaker boxes
Photovoltaic market development
The current levels of dependence on fossil fuels, the
need of reducing the carbon emissions associated
with energy use and the prospects of developing
a new and extremely innovative technology sector, make
photovoltaics increasingly attractive. In the last years the
photovoltaic market expanded extensively, especially in
Germany, followed by Spain and Italy. In addition, Greece
is due to be the next fast-growing market. Several incen-
tives have stimulated the expansion, rendering the photo-
voltaics industry ready to expand. However, the high
Figure 1: Comparison of the recent photovoltaic growth (in MW)
production cost of electricity, due to the significant capital
in the EU with the White Paper objectives
Source: EurObserv’ER, 2009.
investment cost, is the main barrier to large-scale deploy-
ment of photovoltaics systems.
Competition is increasing. New technologies are being
In 2008, the photovoltaic capacity installed in the EU
developed. Solar photovoltaic systems today are more
was about 4 600 MW, with a total cumulative capacity
than 60 % cheaper than they were in the 1990s. The
of more than 9 500 MW achieved. This illustrates an
focus lies now on cost reduction and lowest cost per rated
increase of 200 % with respect to 2006. Within the
watt in order to reach competitiveness with all sources of
EU market, practical y the whole of the newly installed
electricity in the medium term. In the 1997 White Paper (1),
capacity is focused on grid-connected power plants.
the European Commission set a target of 3 000 MW of
More than 56 % of the EU-27 photovoltaic installations
photovoltaic capacity to be instal ed in Europe by 2010.
are located in Germany.
Figure 1 demonstrates the current growth. The White
Paper target, already exceeded in 2006, has been more
than tripled in 2008, marking the success of the European
sector. In 2010 the total cumulative capacity installed in
the European Union could be as much as 16 000 MW.
The European photovoltaic industry currently has an
important role in photovoltaic technology development,
capturing about 30 % of the world market of photo-
(1) White Paper for a Community Strategy and Action Plan. Energy for the Future: Renewable sources of energy.
COM(97)599 final. 26.11.1997. Figures relate to the EU-15.
The leading role in photovoltaic installation is played by
Germany, after the renewable energy law came into
5 351 (2008)
3 846 (2007)
effect in 2004. Revenues from photovoltaics have climbed
3 405 (2008)
more than 10 times since 2003. The market stagnated
somewhat in 2006 with installed capacity of 830 MW
compared with 866 MW in 2005. Nonetheless, it still
accounts for over 56 % of the total EU installed capacity.
There are more than 80 companies involved in produc-
tion of thin-layer technology in Germany.
Attractive framework needed
In order to boost the adoption of photovoltaics and to
increase its competitiveness in all EU Member States,
it is necessary to create an attractive framework. In the
DE ES IT FR BE PT NL CZ AT LU
UK EL SE FI DK
CY PL BG HU RO
MT SK LT EE LV
first place it entails financial support, which encourages
growth of the industry even where the cost of photo-
voltaics is above grid parity. Another crucial aspect is
the reduction of administrative hurdles and grid barriers.
However, most Member States do not place importance
on adequate support to its development. National elec-
tricity markets and efficiency of support schemes stil vary
significantly. Therefore cooperation between countries and
optimisation of the support schemes seem indispensable.
Figure 2: Cumulative installed photovoltaic capacity (in MW)
in the EU in 2007 and 2008 (ﬁ gures for 2008 are estimates).
Source: EurObserv’ER 2009.