Melbourne’s suburbs shining with solar and battery uptake

Solar suburbs in Victoria. Image: Solar Victoria

After a bumpy start, the Victorian government’s Solar Homes Program is now in full swing, lead by strong uptake in Melbourne’s suburbs and the state’s rural north. Meanwhile, demand for batteries linked to rooftop solar has skyrocketed over the last month, spurred by the energy crisis and an especially cold winter.

From pv magazine Australia

The Victorian government’s $1.3 billion Solar Homes Program (program) may have had bumpy beginnings but it’s certainly up and running now, not only boosting solar uptake but also virtual power plants (VPPs) and residential batteries. 

Melbourne’s outer suburbs are leading household solar boom. Since the rebate began back in 2018, five metropolitan suburbs have accessed more solar rebates than any others. Indeed, Tarneit, Cragieburn, Point Cook, Clyde North and Truganina make up a full 10% of all Solar Homes installations across the state. 

Rural access to the Solar Homes program was a point of criticism for Nationals’ Victoria Murray Plains MP Peter Walsh in 2020, who alleged Melbourne-centrism in the program when his electorate was overlooked by the program’s scheme for energy storage devices. 

However, northern Victoria is leading the uptake among rural areas of the state, notably the regional cities of Mildura, Shepparton, Wodonga, Wangaratta and Wallan. 

The Victorian government claims the program has already helped more than 200,000 Victorians install solar, saving households an average of $1,073 on their annual electrical bill. Moreover, a Solar Victoria customer survey revealed that 71% of respondents would not have installed solar if it hadn’t been for the program. 

“Our Solar Homes Program is driving down the cost of living for Victorian households and reducing emissions,” says minister for Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio. 

“Solar Homes customers are well-positioned to absorb energy bill rises in energy costs, by time-setting appliances to run during the day when solar systems are operating at their peak.”

The program is still open, and Victorian homeowners and rental providers are able to apply for rebates of $1,400 for the installation of solar panels, with an optional interest free $1,400 loan, and a further $1,000 rebate for the installation of solar hot water.  

“Household solar puts the power back into the hands of Victorian households,” continued D’Ambrosio, “while helping meet our target of halving emissions by 2030 and supporting 5,500 clean energy jobs.” 

Battery boom 

The last month has seen especially cold temperatures which, in combination with the energy crisis, has seen the demand for solar battery energy storage systems skyrocket. Solar Victoria chief executive, Stan Krpan, told The Guardian that inquiries into battery rebates in Victoria have spiked in the last two weeks.

Rates for residential battery energy storage systems are also available to households that have not previously claimed a Solar Homes rebate. The Andrews government expanded the scheme in March, and it now offers up to $3,500 for households to install a solar battery. 

Krpan reported that 5,842 battery rebate applications have been approved this financial year, more than double the number received last year with three weeks still to go. “In the past two weeks, phone inquiries to our contact centre have been 50% higher than the yearly average,” said Krpan. “We’re expecting this to lead to growth in installations over the winter months.”

The Victorian government-backed is also now supporting six different two-year VPP pilots as part of its Solar Homes program. The program is capped at 2000 rebates with the state government saying households that sign up to the pilot prior to June 30, 2022 and install a battery will receive a rebate of $4,174.

It has approved five battery brands to participate in the six distinct VPPs which it says will give participants “guaranteed financial benefits and additional consumer protections not widely available in the general market.”

The program’s five approved battery providers include Tesla, Mondo, Reposit, Sonnen and Arcstream.

Author: Blake Matich

Solar cell efficiencies at a glance – updated

A heterojunction solar cell made by the University of New South Wales. Image: University of New South Wales

A research group led by Professor Martin Green has published Version 60 of the Solar cell efficiency tables.

From pv magazine

An international research group led by Professor Martin Green from the University of New South Wales in Australia has published Version 60 of “Solar cell efficiency tables” in Progress in Photovoltaics.

The scientists said they have added 15  new results to the new version of the tables since January. They also noted that an appendix describes new approaches and terminology.

Since 1993, when the tables were first published, the research group has seen major improvements in all cell categories.

“Copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS) and multijunction cells have seen the most consistent gains, although perovskites have recently seen similar overall gains compressed into a shorter timescale,” Green told pv magazine in an interview last year.

He said that the most important factor for inclusion in the tables is that all results should be independently measured at test centers on the group’s list.

“All of our recognized test centers are carefully vetted prior to inclusion on our list and have been involved in round-robin testing with one another, ensuring consistency of measurements to well within the uncertainty estimates included with the published results,” said Green.

The research group includes scientists from the European Commission Joint Research Centre, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, the US Department of Energy, and the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Author: Emiliano Bellini

Megasol reveals new solar PV in-roof system

Megasol’s Nicer X modules are available as black and translucent versions. Image: Megasol

Swiss module manufacturer Megasol has unveiled a novel rooftop PV system in two variants — full-black and translucent. The installation consists of vertical supports, a ridge profile, and solar modules.

From pv magazine

Swiss solar module manufacturer Megasol has released a new in-roof system that it claims can be used to deploy homogeneous and flush-fitting rooftop PV installations.

The Nicer X in-roof system is available in two versions — the full-black and the translucent variants. The first system relies on 400 solar modules with a power conversion efficiency of 21.7%, black cell gaps, cross-contacts, and rear busbars. The second solution utilises larger, transparent cell spacing enabling light to penetrate by around 10%. Both solutions comprise three components: vertical supports, a ridge profile, and solar modules.

Megasol head of communications Michael Reist said installation is a simple process with the first step involving the screwing of the vertical supports directly onto the existing roof battens after the old tiles have been removed. In the case of a new building, reduced roof battens can be installed. In the second step, the ridge profiles are clicked and modules can be installed.

“The modules are laid completely without tools, they are pushed up to the upper stop and then closed, similar to a trunk lid,” Reist said. “An audible click and a corresponding haptic feedback confirm that it is securely locked in place.”

The Megasol Nicer X system. Image: Megasol

Reist said it is also possible to visually check whether the solar modules are securely fixed. With the manufacturer’s snap-lock fasteners, the modules can easily be attached and detached several times.

According to Megasol, 20 square meters of the Nicer X substructure and solar modules could be deployed by one person in an hour.

The manufacturer also offers matching eaves grilles for the system if required. The system is also claimed to be completely rainproof from a roof pitch of three degrees, which is achieved by a double labyrinth seal.

Megasol said the system is not only suitable for in-roof photovoltaic systems, but also for solar parking lots, canopies or facades. Existing parking spaces could be retrofitted and, in the case of facades, the system is particularly suitable for hall-like buildings or steel structures. In the case of non-insulated hall constructions, no further facade elements are necessary and the trapezoidal sheets can be left out completely.

Author: Sandra Enkhardt

Open-source software to identify best locations for PV projects in urban areas

Roof Segmentation: (a) Select the urban area of interest, (b) LiDAR 3D model with roof segmentation, (c) Normalized roof heights model. Image: University of Malaga, Expert System with Applications, Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0

The proposed methodology relies on geographic information and meteorological data. Project developers can use it to evaluate the potential energy production by a photovoltaic system for either a long or short time.

From pv magazine

Researchers from the University of Malaga in Spain have developed an open-source software platform based on a data mining process that they claim can help decision making in identifying locations for photovoltaic projects in cities.

Through the proposed methodology, which relies on geographic information and meteorological data, project developers should be able to evaluate the potential energy production by a photovoltaic system for either a long or short time.

“The system accesses the geographic information that was previously downloaded and creates a map with a grid that delimits the areas available for energy estimation. It allows the user to select the area of interest by defining a polygon on the map,” the scientists explained. “The system then loads the image covering the area delimited by the user’s coordinates through the polygon on the map. Subsequent processing steps only take into account the data filtered in this step.”

The software integrates data on the mean inclination, orientation, size, and latitude for every connected component. It also implements an image processing model and extraction of the characteristics of the roofs, as well as photovoltaic energy calculation models.

“This tool offers excellent opportunities because it can be easily updated with new features made by the same developers or new contributors. After all, the source code is released,” the academics explained. “Those new features could include focusing on new types of elements in a city or performing a more precise estimation of the energy potential.”

The scientists presented the software in the study Data driven tools to assess the location of photovoltaic facilities in urban areas, which was recently published in Expert Systems with Applications. “URSUS-PV is offered as a free web tool available to individuals, municipalities, neighborhood communities or companies in the photovoltaic sector,” the research team said. “It is also supplied as a package that can be altered to be adapted to specific scenarios or improved with new features.”

Author: Emiliano Bellini

JinkoSolar showcases 13.08%-efficient transparent TOPCon solar module for BIPV, agrivoltaics

The solar panel measures 1,1759 mm × 1158 mm × 11.5 mm, has a weight of 54 kg. Image: JinkoSolar

The new solar module can be purchased with different levels of transparency, depending on the project, with light transmittance ranging between 30% and 40%. It has a power output of 245 W to 300 W and a temperature coefficient of -0.30% per C.

From pv magazine

Chinese module manufacturer JinkoSolar launched a new transparent solar module for applications in building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and agrivoltaics at the recent Smarter E event held in Munich, Germany.

“The Jinko Transparent Curtain Wall Series is based on our n-type TOPCon HOT2 cell technology,” a company spokesperson told pv magazine. “It can be purchased with different levels of transparency, depending on the project. Light transmittance ranges between 30% and 40%.”

The panel has a power output ranging from 245 W to 300 W with the power conversion efficiency spanning from 12.09% to 13.08%. The open-circuit voltage is between 25.6 V and 28.5 V and the short-circuit current is of 12.09 A to 12.93 A.

It measures 1,1759 mm × 1158 mm × 11.5 mm, has a weight of 54 kg and its temperature coefficient is -0.30% per C.

The operating ambient temperature ranges from -40 C to 85 C, said the manufacturer, and the maximum system voltage is 1,500 V. The panel has 6 mm of toughened glass on both sides and its junction box has an IP 67 rating.

Jinko offers a five-year product warranty and a 25-year power output guarantee. The panels are said to be able to operate at 90% of their original performance after 10 years and at 80% in the remaining 15 years.

“The product is also available in different colors and can be adapted to modern architectural concepts,” the spokesperson said. “The dual glass configuration ensures lower crack diffusivity and corrosion resistance.”

Author: Emiliano Bellini

Heterojunction solar cell with 25.18% efficiency, 85.42% fill factor

Image: Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)

Researchers in China have fabricated a heterojunction solar cell with a 244.63 cm2 Czochralski n-c-Si wafer. They used light soaking to improve the dark conductance of the hydrogenated amorphous silicon films.

From pv magazine

Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have built a heterojunction solar cell with highly conductive boron-doped hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) thin films. They claim it reduces fill factor losses to a minimum.

“Our cells were conceived for applications in large-scale solar modules,” researcher Wenzhu Liu told pv magazine.

The scientists fabricated the cell with a 244.63 cm2 Czochralski n-c-Si wafer provided by China-based Sichuan Yongxiang Silicon Material Company. They used light soaking to improve the dark conductance of the a-Si:H films, in order to help the diffusion and hopping of weakly bound hydrogen atoms, resulting in efficient boron tetrasilicide (B−Si4) doping.

“The light-soaking devices are made of LED arrays and were developed by Chinese companies at our request,” Liu said.

The scientists have found that boron doping, which stems from weakly bound hydrogen atoms, plays a crucial part in the formation of metastable hydrogen configurations in the a-Si:H films. Under standard illumination conditions, the solar cell achieved a power conversion efficiency of 25.18%, an open-circuit voltage of 749 mV, and a fill factor of 85.42%, which the scientists described as the highest values among two-side contacted silicon solar cells.

An encapsulated device was also able to retain 98.70% and 97.59% of the fill factor and efficiency, respectively, after 1,000 hours. The scientists claimed that this demonstrates high stability against extreme climate degradation factors.

The scientists described the process in “Light-induced activation of boron doping in hydrogenated amorphous silicon for over 25% efficiency silicon solar cells,” which was recently published in Nature Energy. “We participated in their design and now both the cells and the light-soaking devices will be available in the market,” said Liu.

Author: Emiliano Bellini

Chinese PV Industry Brief: China’s cumulative PV capacity tops 322 GW

Image: u_2ui6kzp77g, pixabay

In other news, Zhonghuan Semiconductor announced it will begin selling 210 mm n-type wafers and the local government in Zhejiang Province said it wants to deploy another 12.4 GW of new PV by 2024.

From pv magazine

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has revealed that newly installed PV capacity for April in the country amounts to 3.66 GW – representing a 23% increase compared to April 2021. It also revealed that year to date in 2022, new PV systems installed in China total 16.88 GW. Overall, the country’s cumulative PV capacity reached 322.57 GW at the end of April.

Zhonghuan Semiconductor announced today that it will begin selling n-type wafers in the 210mm x 210mm format that it first introduced to the p-type market back in 2019. The company will sell the wafer at 150 micron thickness at CNY 9.49 ($1.42) per piece, and an even thinner product at 130 microns at CNY 9.06 ($1.35) per piece.

The government of Zhejiang Province released its energy development plan for the fourteenth five-year (2021-2025) period. The province is planning to build 12.45 GW more solar PV from now to the end of 2025. This would push the region’s cumulative PV installations to 27.62 GW.

Author: Vincent Shaw

New water-draining device for rooftop PV systems

Image: Solarud

Portuguese startup Solarud has developed a way to eliminate soiling around the frames of PV panels with low inclination slopes. The device drains water that would otherwise stay stagnant on the surface of modules.

From pv magazine

Portuguese startup Solarud has unveiled a water-draining device that can be clipped to solar modules, in order to resolve dust and soiling issues.

“The piece is usable on panels that have frame heights of 40 mm, 35 mm or 30 mm, and thickness between 8 mm and 11 mm. It is suited for modules with slopes between 3 degrees and 20 degrees,” the company’s co-founder, António Peres, told pv magazine.

The device was designed with rooftop installations in mind, where difficult accessibility and height-related risks make soiling an even greater concern for operations and maintenance contractors. While the device cannot replace cleaning, which remains essential, “the goal is to improve the energy production between cleaning cycles by preventing the soiling impact,” Peres said.

The company claims energy gains of 3.5% on average, with better performance being achieved with solar panels in portrait position, when soiling at the bottom of the module affects all its three substrings.

In a case study, the company showed the gains between two equal strings in the same installation – one installed with Solarud and one without.

“The modules were all cleaned on week zero and we then compared the performance of the strings on week 13,” Peres said.

The company developed and produces the device in Portugal. It is available for bulk purchases, starting at 50 units for €100 ($106), or €2 per unit. Each piece weighs 6 grams and is made of UV-resistant recyclable plastic for longer durability.

The company is focused on the European market but distributes globally. Its main clients are investors and project owners seeking fast returns on investment, as well as O&M companies looking to provide better performance alongside their cleaning services.

Author: Beatriz Santos

Electron blocking for 18.5%-efficient carbon-electrode perovskite solar cell

Image: Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Advanced Energy Materials, Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0

Scientists in Germany and Switzerland have developed a perovskite solar cell with a carbon electrode that achieved 18.5% efficiency. It also retained 82% of this after 500 hours of continuous illumination. While a long way behind what has been achieved with other perovskite solar devices, the cell is produced via all low-temperature processes that could likely be scaled into low-cost, large-scale manufacturing – making the approach one worth pursuing further.

From pv magazine

It is generally accepted today that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, perovskite solar cells will make their way into mass production and allow for solar energy yields far beyond those of today’s technology. But, as to the specific materials and device structure(s) that will make it beyond the research stage, there are still many different routes being pursued, each with its own disadvantages and disadvantages.

Creating contacts for the cell, which allow the generated current to flow out of it, offers one example.

“Metal contact electrodes [commonly used today] can stimulate degradation of PSCs due to diffusion of metal impurities across the interfaces,” said scientists led by Fraunhofer ISE in a newly published paper. “This problem can be fundamentally overcome by replacing the metal contact with chemically inert and robust carbon-graphite electrodes in PSCs (C-PSCs), which are highly promising for commercialization due to their ambient pressure processability based on industrially established printing techniques.”

They go on to explain that C-PSCs create a problem elsewhere in the cell, leading to performance losses at the point where the carbon electrode meets the perovskite layer. And to overcome this, Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE worked with scientists at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland to develop a blocking layer to place between the two.

They deposited another perovskite formulation onto the active cell layer, and using various imaging techniques, they were able to confirm that this additional layer served to block electrons from movement in the “wrong” direction, and increase the cell performance.

Thy described the approach in “Employing 2D-Perovskite as an Electron Blocking Layer in Highly Efficient (18.5%) Perovskite Solar Cells with Printable Low Temperature Carbon Electrode,” which was recently published in Advanced Energy Materials. As the title suggests, the group fabricated cells that reached 18.5% efficiency and maintained 82% of this after 500 hours of constant, one-sun illumination. A control device fabricated without the blocking layer achieved 15.7% initial efficiency, and had lost 63% of this after 200 hours under illumination.

“We believe that the approach of the employment of 2D perovskite as an EBL can help pave the way for the future practical development of fully printable C-PSCs with high efficiency and long-term stability,” the group concluded.

Author: Mark Hutchins

Photovoltaics vs. nuclear power on Mars

Image: Davian Ho, University of California, Berkeley

Solar might be more efficient than nuclear energy to supply power for a six-person extended mission to Mars that will involve a 480-day stay on the planet’s surface before returning to Earth, according to new US research.

From pv magazine

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have compared how PV or nuclear energy could power a crewed outpost for an extended period on Mars and have determined that solar offers the best performance.

“Photovoltaic energy generation coupled to certain energy storage configurations in molecular hydrogen outperforms nuclear fusion reactors over 50% of the planet’s surface, mainly within those regions around the equatorial band, which is in fairly sharp contrast to what has been proposed over and over again in the literature, which is that it will be nuclear power,” said UC Berkeley researcher Aaron Berliner, noting that two energy sources were compared for the power supply of a six-person extended mission to Mars involving a 480-day stay on the planet’s surface before returning to Earth.

The US team considered four different scenarios: nuclear power generation with the miniaturized nuclear fission Kilopower system, PV power generation with battery energy storage, PV power generation with compressed hydrogen energy storage produced via electrolysis, and hydrogen generation with compressed hydrogen energy storage (PEC).

“In our calculations, we assumed a capacity factor of 75% to account for the solar flux deviation throughout the Martian year and sized energy storage systems to enable 1 full day of operations from reserve power,” the group explained. “We then calculated the carry-along mass requirements for each of the power generation systems considered.”

The scientists found that, of the three PV-based power generation options, only the photovoltaics-plus-electrolyzer system outcompetes the nuclear system based on carry-along mass. They also said that the optimal absorber bandgaps for the PV systems depend heavily on the location on the surface of Mars, the total depth of the air column above a given location, gradients in dust and ice concentrations, and orbital geometry effects that cause different effective air column thicknesses for locations near the poles.

“In conclusion, solar cell arrays with careful attention to semiconductor choice and device construction represent a promising technology for sustaining an Earth-independent crewed habitat on Mars,” the academics said. “Our analysis provides design rules for solar cells on the Martian surface and shows that solar cells can offer substantial reduction in carry-along mass requirements compared to alternative technology over a large fraction of the planet’s surface.”

They explained their findings in “Photovoltaics-Driven Power Production Can Support Human Exploration on Mars,” which was recently published in Frontiers.

Author: Emiliano Bellini