Solar PV employed around 3.4 million people in 2021

Image: Swinerton Renewable Energy

Almost half of the workers were employed in China, around 280,000 in North America, over 260,000 in Europe, and some 50,000 in Africa, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The vast majority of workers were employed in manufacturing and installation of new capacity, with solar jobs paying lower wage premiums than the nuclear, oil, and gas industries.

From pv magazine

The energy sector employed over 65 million people in 2019, or 2% of global employment, according to the newly published World Energy Employment Report by the IEA. Half of this workforce is employed in the clean energy sector, with solar PV employing more workers than any other power generation technology.

According to the report, power generation employment totaled 11.2 million in 2019, comprised of 3 million in solar PV, 2 million in coal power, and 1.9 million in hydro. Onshore and offshore wind power employed 1.2 million and nuclear power 1 million. Employment in other renewables totaled around 710,000 employees.

The agency estimates that employment in the entire energy sector in 2021 was up by around 1.3 million and could increase by another 6 percentage points by 2022, with clean energy accounting for all of the growth. Energy investment could rise by 8% in 2022, reaching $2.4 trillion, but with almost half of the increase in capital spending linked to higher costs.

Around 3.4 million workers were employed in solar PV in 2021, almost half of which in China, enabled by lower-cost labor, according to the report. North America employed around 280,000 workers and Europe over 260,000. There were around 50,000 people working in the solar industry in Africa, with this number set to grow due to the proliferation of on- and off-grid solutions in the continent, the agency said.

Most employees in the industry work in manufacturing and installation of new capacity, with manufacturing jobs being strongly concentrated in a few countries: China alone accounted for 260,000 workers in the production of polysilicon, wafers, cells, and modules.

“Residential solar panels are often installed by construction workers and electricians who also work on other projects, such that many solar PV jobs are not full-time, and it can be difficult to count employees accurately,” the agency noted.

Shortage of skilled labor poses a major challenge for the industry, which is expected to see continuous growth in annual capacity installation in every IEA scenario. Around $215 billion were invested in the industry in 2021, an annual average growth of 5% over the previous decade, according to the report. Total installed capacity worldwide stood at 740 GW in 2019, comprising 425 GW of utility-scale installations and 315 GW of residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) installations.

Construction of new projects, including manufacturing of components, is reportedly the main driver of employment across the energy sector, employing over 60% of the workforce. Industries with a higher share of workers in construction, like solar, have lower wage premiums than industries like nuclear, oil, and gas, according to the report. The solar industry also has less trade union representation than fossil fuel industries, where labor representation has led to higher wages.

According to the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, 14 million new clean energy jobs will be created by 2030, with another 16 million workers shifting to new roles related to clean energy. In this scenario, around 60% of new employees will require at least two years of post-secondary education, making worker training essential to the sustainable development of the industry.

The report also shows that currently women are strongly under-represented in the energy sector, accounting for 16% of the sector’s workforce, compared to 39% of global employment.

“Women make up a very small share of senior management in energy, just under 14% on average. However, there is substantial variation among energy sectors, with the percentage shares in nuclear and coal the lowest at 8% and 9%, respectively, whereas electric utilities are among the highest with nearly 20%. This compares with 16% of women in senior management economy-wide,” the report says. There are no major differences in the share of women’s employment between fossil fuels and clean energy globally.

Author: Beatriz Santos

World could install 250 GW of solar this year, claims Bloomberg analyst

Image: Recurrent Energy

Rob Barnett, a senior clean energy analyst for Bloomberg, forecasts a 30% increase in global PV deployment this year, and double-digit growth through 2025.

From pv magazine

Demand is pushing solar growth across the world to new heights, as Bloomberg senior analyst Rob Barnett forecasts deployment to increase by 30% this year. Total global solar deployment is closing in on 1 TW installed – an impressive milestone for the energy transition.

“The global solar picture is just staggering at this point,” Barnett told Yahoo Finance. “We are on track to install something like 250 GW of solar capacity this year.”

China is contributing the largest share to capacity growth this year, with about 108 GW of new operational PV. This is a near-doubling of the roughly 55 GW installed by China last year. The country has the world’s largest exposure to renewable energy, with 323 GW of solar and 338 GW of wind energy. President Xi Jinping aims for 1,200 GW combined by 2030, and the nation is currently ahead of schedule on that goal, said Bloomberg.

Renewable energy is hitting all-time highs in the United States, too. Renewable generation from solar and wind installations reached 28% in April – a new record for the category. And Barnett said the solar boom has just begun.

“There really is this big, top-line growth scenario that we see unfolding for all of the companies that are participating in the solar supply chain,” said Barnett.

Climate goals are one driver of the red-hot demand for solar, but Barnett said there is another force that is accelerating demand in the near-term.

“I would actually argue that the bigger driver for clean energy demand, particularly here in Europe, is elevated energy costs,” he said.

Costs continue to fall for PV, making it increasingly cost-competitive with oil, which has spiked in price since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Shipments of solar modules have fallen precipitously over 20 years, from $4.88/W in 2000 to $0.34/W in 2021, based on a recent report by the Energy Information Administration.

Barnett said he expects solar demand to retain its momentum, even if oil and natural gas prices cool off.

“It’s certainly possible that if you had some easing in the traditional fuel markets, that it might take the accelerator off, but I don’t really see that as being a material risk on the demand side of the equation for clean energy,” he said.

This demand-side momentum is likely to continue as prices improve and the global economy targets decarbonization.

“I do think that the economics are already quite good. And so you’d have to see such a sea change in terms of gas prices or coal prices, if you’re thinking about the power grid, to really reverse some of the trends. And I just don’t think there’s any appetite for it either,” said Barnett.


Straight to storage via solar integrated batteries

A solar redox flow cell (SRFC). Image: University of Porto

Scientists in China evaluated the prospects for various approaches to integrating both solar generation and energy storage in a single device. Their work outlines several ways this could increase the efficiency of solar energy storage, and recommends that future research on this area should focus on integration of materials with the highest specific capacity for energy storage, alongside the dual function of solar energy harvesting.

From pv magazine

Maximizing the efficiency of energy storage, to make good use of every electron generated from intermittent renewables, will be an ongoing challenge for scientists over the coming decades, and one that will likely see a whole host of new technologies and materials introduced to increasingly specialized markets.

Among the less explored approaches here is single-device integrated solar generation and energy storage, or solar-powered redox batteries (SPRBs). These promise to eliminate much of the additional power electronics and other equipment needed to shuttle energy from a PV system to a battery, meaning both cheaper and more efficient energy storage. So far, a few different approaches to fabricating such a device have emerged, and while progress has been made, none has yet achieved the type of performance that would bring interest from commercial developers.

Scientists led by China’s Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology conducted an extensive review of recent progress with SPRBs, focusing on the development of high-performance dye sensitizer materials, the photoelectrochemical performance of different electrode materials, and the mechanism and structure of such devices. Their review and recommendations can be found in the paper Integrated Photovoltaic Charging and Energy Storage Systems: Mechanism, Optimization, and Future, published in Small.

The paper notes that dye sensitizer materials and semiconductor photocatalysts have shown the most promising results so far, and recommend a range of strategies focused on enhanced light absorption, charge separation, energy matching and overall device optimization. It also states that working with materials that exhibit a high specific capacity for energy storage will be key in developing commercially relevant types. If this potential can be realized, the review finds multiple applications including capacitors, solid-state batteries, microdevices, and smart wearables that could all benefit from such integrated technology.


Forecast methodology for photovoltaic power yield during solar eclipses

Image: Doinkster, pixabay

In October there will be a partial solar eclipse in Central Europe. The Fraunhofer IEE has developed a solution that reportedly enables the most accurate forecast possible of the photovoltaic feed-in power during the extreme event.

From pv magazine

The more photovoltaic systems are installed, the more relevant are precise forecasts of how their feed-in will develop in the event of weather events such as solar eclipses. Extreme meteorological events in particular pose major challenges to secure network operation.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Economics and Energy System Technology (IEE) in Germany have addressed this issue by developing a new forecast methodology that will soon be tested under real conditions. On October 25, in fact, there will be a partial solar eclipse in Central Europe, which will significantly reduce the photovoltaic feed-in. So far, such rare extreme events have not been routinely included in weather forecasts.

The scientists claim their solution is able to combine the degree of coverage specifically for location and time with all important weather forecasts. This would allow regional and local PV feed-in forecasts to be optimally adjusted in the future, with minimal errors.

Although the effect of the solar eclipse is slower and smaller than the influence of changing clouds, it still plays a significant role in the result. Volatile self-consumption also has a massive effect on the feed-in profile of photovoltaic systems, which can be forecast separately, according to the researchers.

Fraunhofer IEE validated its results with the data from the eclipse that occurred in Central Europe on June 10, 2021, in two steps: through ground-based measurement of global radiation based on data from German weather service DWD and feed-in measurements from thousands of photovoltaic power plants that are used for extrapolation and forecasting processes. The simulation also included weather forecasts and performance data from Fraunhofer IEE. The solution is also available as an algorithm or software for direct integration with the user.

The researchers are considering the proposed methodology as a tool to further strengthen the grid integration of renewable energy sources in Germany. For new locations or regions that have not yet been measured, an extrapolation process is possible by using current measurements from comparable areas and systems.

The October solar eclipse, with a 25% degree of coverage, will be about twice as strong as the result in June 2021, according to the researchers. Weather forecasts a few days beforehand are expected to provide information about cloud density and the effects the solar eclipse may ultimately have.

“In addition to the already good forecast models for the feed-in of individual photovoltaic parks or entire portfolios — including self-consumption — an important contribution can be made to avoiding or reducing errors,” said Rafael Fritz of Fraunhofer IEE.


Novel method to turn existing solar parks into agrivoltaic facilities

Image: NREL/Dennis Schroeder

An international research team has developed a new methodology to increase levels of pollination at ground-mounted solar plants. It involves the development of new vegetated land cover below and around solar parks.

From pv magazine

An international research team has developed a new approach to improve land use at ground-mounted solar plants, which they claim could be used to add important wildlife habitats or even agricultural activity to land already in use by a conventional PV system.

“We initially developed our approach for existing solar plants installed in the region of Apulia in southern Italy, but it could be utilized in other regions or countries with different vegetation,” Teodoro Semeraro, an environmental scientist at Italy’s University of Salento who led the research, told pv magazine.”It could also be used for new projects that include agricultural use or rooftop installations combining green roofs with solar power generation, where the agricultural aspect would have less importance.”

The approach would see new vegetated land cover cultivated below and around solar installations, as potential habitat for pollinating insects or for agricultural activities including beekeeping and medicinal herb production. This approach would provide a series of additional advantages such as reduction of maintenance costs of green areas in solar parks, fire risk reduction, potential development of small-scale agricultural activities, and positive media coverage, among others.

Local conditions

The scientists pointed out that the selected vegetation to be grown at the solar parks should be able to adapt to the ground’s environmental conditions, water scarcity, and nutritional deficiency. “Our approach may also consider non-indigenous species, but from the point of view of the landscape and the protection of local biodiversity, the use of indigenous vegetation is desirable,” Semeraro stated. “Moreover, the local species are adapted to the climate and the lack of water, which is chronic in Apulia, so they could respond better. But, having said that, the use of non-native species is technically feasible at conditions that respond to specific project needs.”

According to the research, Beekeeping at these sites would not require invasive structures and hives could be laid on the ground during the blooming time. “The biodiversity and ecosystem services could persist over time even after ground-mounted PV systems are dismantled and continuing to support population welfare at both local and larger scale, guaranteeing sustainability,” they further explained, noting that beekeeping may help overcome the issue of monoculture, which is typical of the Apulia region.

Holistic approach

The research listed a range of ecosystem services which solar parks could provide without additional human input, on the basis of the intrinsic value of the vegetation in sustaining ecosystem services. This would turn the solar parks into semi-natural areas, or Agro-Ecological Photovoltaic Gardens, which would host melliferous species blooming in different periods to be harvested and marketed as medicinal herbs. Furthermore, the solar panels may reduce the water stress for the vegetation, while improving soil quality thanks to their shading function.

When asked about what exactly defines agrivoltaics and make it differ from conventional ground-mounted solar facilities, Semeraro said that the crucial element is the presence of an agricultural enterprise in a project. “We cannot speak of agrivoltaics if a stakeholder in the agricultural field is not involved in the project or if there is no farm interested in the cultivation or use of the soil,” he stated. “There is a risk that a plant will be created without there being someone who cultivates it.”

The scientists introduced their approach in the study “An innovative approach to combine solar photovoltaic gardens with agricultural production and ecosystem services,” published in Ecosystem Services.

The group includes scientists from the University of Salento and the Institute of Science of Food Production C.N.R. Unit of Lecce, in Italy, as well as from the Glasgow Caledonian University in the United Kingdom.

“A transdisciplinary approach is important to share knowledge across the different stakeholders and bridge the information gaps typical of a sectoral perspective, creating a holistic vision of the involved professional skills and experiences,” the paper reads. “Its proper implementation requires the joint effort of all economic stakeholders together with technical and scientific experts to promote multifunctional land-use in ground-mounted solar farms.”

Author: Emiliano Bellini

Trina Solar achieves 24.5% efficiency for 210 mm p-type PERC solar cell

Image: Trina Solar

Trina Solar said the State Key Laboratory of PV Science and Technology in China has confirmed the efficiency rating of its latest solar panel.

From pv magazine

China’s Trina Solar has revealed that it has achieved a power conversion efficiency of 24.5% for a p-type PERC solar cell based on 210 mm wafers.

The results, confirmed by the State Key Laboratory of PV Science and Technology in China, represents a world record for this cell type, according to the company. In August 2021, the cell still had an efficiency of 23.5%, which means that it has gained one percentage point in less than 12 months.

The company said the increase in efficiency could be attributed to the development of advanced technologies such as multilayer anti-reflection, ultra-fine metallization fingers and super multi-busbar (MBB).

“PERC is a very mature industrial technology with the lowest cost,” said Yifeng Chen, head of Trina Solar’s high efficiency cell and module r&d center.

In March, Trina also set a new world record efficiency of 25.5% for its 210 mm × 210 mm monocrystalline n-type i-TOPCon solar cell. The result was certified by the National Institute of Metrology of China.


Chinese PV Industry Brief: Longi, Shenzhen Energy partner on inverters

Image: Longi Solar

Longi has revealed plans to enter the inverter business through a partnership with Shenzhen Energy, while Solarspace has announced plans to open a 16 GW cell factory in Anhui province.

From pv magazine

Longi and Shenzhen Energy have set up a joint venture to open an inverter factory in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province. The two companies will invest CNY 5.3 billion ($791 million) in the new facility, which will have a capacity of 10 GW and could also potentially host 10 GW of solar module production.

Solarspace has signed a deal with the government of Chuzhou, Anhui province, for a 16 GW solar cell manufacturing facility. The factory will be built in two 8 GW phases and produce cells based on 182 mm and 210 mm wafers. The total investment is CNY 10.5 billion. Solarspace has currently a cell production capacity of 19 GW and 4.5 GW of module production.

Energy China, one of the largest state-owned energy enterprises in China, has submitted a project proposal for a huge PV and concentrated solar power (CSP) complex in Xuzhou, in China’s Xinjiang region. The plant will consist of a 1.35 GW solar array, a 150 MW CSP unit, and an unspecified amount of storage capacity.

Xinte Energy said it expects a net profit of CNY 5.5 billion to CNY 6 billion for the first half of this year. Last week, the manufacturer said that its solar and wind project development margins had increased, along with polysilicon prices.

Authors: Vincent Shaw & Max Hall

CSEM, EPFL achieve 31.25% efficiency for tandem perovskite-silicon solar cell

Image: D. Türkay, (EPFL)

The new world record was independently certified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States.

From pv magazine

Researchers from the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) claim to have achieved a power conversion efficiency exceeding 30% for a 1 cm2 tandem perovskite-silicon solar cell, which they said represents a world record for a PV device of this kind.

In particular, they achieved an efficiency of 30.93% for a 1 cm2 solar cell based on high-quality perovskite layers from solution on a planarized silicon surface and an efficiency of 31.25% on a cell of the same size and fabricated with a hybrid vapor/solution processing technique compatible with a textured silicon surface.

“These results constitute two new world records: one for the planar and one for the textured device architecture,” they specified, noting that both efficiencies were certified by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “The latter approach provides a higher current and is compatible with the structure of current industrial silicon solar cells.”

Schematics of perovskite-on-silicon tandems that are either flat or textured on their front side. Image: C. Wolff (EPFL)

The research team did not disclose technical details on how they improved the efficiency of both devices.

“These high-efficiency results will now require further R&D to allow their scaling up onto larger surface areas and to ensure that these new cells can maintain a stable power output on our rooftops and elsewhere over a standard lifetime,” said CSEM researcher Quentin Jeangros. “Our results are the first to show that the 30% barrier can be overcome using low-cost materials and processes, which should open new perspectives for the future of PV,” the researchers added.

The previous world record — of 29.8% — had been achieved by scientists from the Helmholtz Center Berlin (HZB) in Germany in November 2021. This result improved upon the previous world record achieved by perovskite developer Oxford PV in December 2020, when the UK-based company announced a power conversion efficiency of 29.52% for its perovskite/silicon tandem device.

EPFL researchers achieved 29.2% efficiency for a tandem solar cell with fully textured silicon measuring 1 cm2 in April. This result was confirmed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. “A big challenge will be developing solar cells that can remain stable on our rooftops for more than 25 years. But the higher efficiency we demonstrated without changing the front texture will be very attractive for the photovoltaics industry,” said EPFL scientist Christophe Baliff at the time.

Author: Emiliano Bellini

Waterproof all-aluminum solar carport from China

The system can be grid-connected, linked to storage, or used for the recharging of electric vehicles. Image: Enerack

Developed by Chinese manufacturer Enerack, the carport can host all types and sizes of solar panels and relies on waterproof technology for rain protection.

From pv magazine

Chinese PV mounting system provider Enerack is offering a solar carport solution for shopping centers, gas stations, public parking lots, and private homes. “The main market for our solar carport is Europe, but we also sold the system in the Middle East, South Africa, Panama, Guatemala and Chile,” the company’s designer and business developer, Ivan Yordanov, told pv magazine.

According to the company, the carport can host all types and sizes of solar panels. “We started developing the system a few years ago when the average size of the solar modules was 1,755 mm x 1,038 x 35, mm and power output was 300 W,” said Yordanov. “Nowadays, our carport system can host modules with dimensions of up to 2,280 mm x 1,133 mm x 35mm.”

The panels can be installed on the carport with a tilt angle ranging from 5 to 30 degrees and in either a landscape or portrait configuration.

The carport is made with aluminum alloy of the type AL6005-T5 and relies on a longitudinal sink rail that is able to catch water from the horizontal gap between the solar module. “To keep the water out of the sink as much as possible the solar panels are installed at a distance of 1 mm,” Yordanov stated “The fixed way of the solar panel is designed to be fixed from the bottom of the module itself with a customized clamp, which makes installation easier.”

The system is scalable in a MW-sized configuration. “We use rail connects and rail slices which allows more solar modules to be installed,” Yordanov explained. “Each carport can host a different number of modules, depending on the project’s size and characteristics.”

The system can be grid-connected, linked to storage, or used for the recharging of electric vehicles. “The cost of a basic system hosting two vehicles ranges from $1,300 to $1,350,” Yordanov concluded.

Author: Emiliano Bellini

Solar-powered direct air carbon capture tech from Australia

Southern Green Gas has designed a unique modular system that runs completely on solar power. Image: Southern Green Gas

Australian company AspiraDAC, which uses solar-powered Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere, has been selected to be part of the first round of purchases from Frontier, a program backed by Facebook and Google’s parent companies, Meta and Alphabet.

From pv magazine Australia

Australian direct air carbon capture technology has the attention of a conglomerate of technology giants, with the company deploying the technology, AspiraDAC, announcing its first customer. Officially, the customer is Stripe, which is making the purchase via Frontier – a partnership between Alphabet and Meta (the owners of Google and Facebook respectively) as well as e-commerce giant Shopify and consulting firm McKinsey.

Earlier this year, Frontier’s members announced they would spend US$925 million on carbon removal over the next nine years to stimulate and accelerate the development of carbon removal technology. AspiraDAC is one of six companies in the first round of spending, in which Stripe distributed  US$2.4 million. It is working in partnership with Australian start-up Southern Green Gas under an exclusive collaboration agreement to produce and deploy its solar-powered modules by the end of 2022.

Southern Green Gas’s prototype machine, developed in partnership with the University of Sydney, claims to suck CO2 directly from the air using solar power.

The technology uses what’s known as Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology, which is still in nascent stages. Image: Southern Green Gas

It is believed Southern Green Gas will build and deliver the machines to AspiraDAC, which will then begin capturing and storing carbon. “With Southern Green Gas pioneering this technology – harnessing Australia’s incredible solar power resource and world-class storage reserves – we are currently completing the demonstration phase of this project and are looking to enter the construction phase later this year,” Julian Turecek, Executive Director of AspiraDAC, said.

“What Frontier sees in AspiraDAC is the enormous potential in the range of technology developments we are ready to scale in the carbon removal sector,” he added. “The DAC [Direct Air Capture] solar-powered modules being delivered in this project are at the heart of the agreement with Frontier, being a global-first use of this technology.”

AspiraDAC and Southern Green Gas say they are currently working on the world’s first solar-powered DAC project of one tonne per day, or 310 tonnes per annum, made possible by funding from the Australian Government’s Carbon Capture Use and Storage Development Fund.

“Australia’s abundant solar energy potential means it is a perfect location for DAC, and with the use of solar-powered modules the facility can operate independently of traditional energy sources,” Turecek said. “Additionally, the compact nature of DAC facilities means production can capture equivalent CO2 emissions using less than 90% of the land needed in reforestation carbon capture projects. It is not without challenges, DAC technology is in its nascent stages, and agreements with customers such as the Frontier group will catalyze further development of the sector. This will increase our ability to bring down the costs per tonne of carbon to a competitive level to take removal to a megatonne scale within the next decade, and gigatonne scale the decade following.”

Author: Bella Peacock