Solar: A new solar cell material could make solar power “Dirt Cheap”?

Perovskite minerals has been known for over a century, but its only been considered is solar cells just recently. Its a very cheap material, but has very good light capturing and conductive properties. The material may pave way to very cheap solar panels, with the same energy efficiency as silicon-base solar cells. Even much cheaper than fossil fuels.

Though Solar technology has made a lot of progress over the past decade, it is still much more expensive than fossil fuels, especially when you factor in its intermittency. Perovskite-base solar panels are seen with great potential. Several groups of scientists are now doing research and experiments on the mineral material that may potentially create a historical leap for solar technology.

Perovskites offer a great combination of cheaper production and good energy-efficiency output. Today solar panels costs about 75 cents per watt, perovskite-base solar panels could cost a mere 10 to 20 cents per watt, that is 86% cheaper. And according to the U.S Department of energy, solar panels just needs to be within 50 cents per watt to compete with fossil fuels. Well at this rate it will more than compete, it may take over fossil fuels.

“The material is dirt cheap” - Michael Grätzel

The advantages perovskite materials provide comes from the need for lesser intensive manufacturing process.Silicon-based solar cells require delicate and expensive processing of silicon to a high degree of purity. While solar cells created using perovskites can me made as easily as painting a surface, the material is simply sprayed into a glass or metal foil substrate.

The are now different versions of a perovskites solar panel, but its not yet perfect. The main challenge is the small amount of lead present in the material, which is toxic. Tests will be done to determine how toxic it is as part of the perovskite material. There is also a need to plan out steps to ensure the solar cells are collected and recycled to prevent the materials from getting into the environment.

source: MITtechnologyreview