Researchers developed cost-effective double-sided solar cells to capture both direct and reflected solar radiation.
Worldwide dependence on fossil fuels for energy has led to a variety of important problems including environmental effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, fluctuations in energy security related to supply and demand, high energy costs, depletion of natural resources and limited access by people in under-developed countries.
Solar energy captured by photovoltaic (PV) solar cells offers solutions to many of these issues in the form of clean and renewable energy. In addition, exploiting solar radiation reflected from the Earth’s surface together with direct radiation has the potential to significantly increase the amount of energy captured, as it is estimated to be on the order of 30–50 % of direct radiation. However, current methods of manufacturing two-sided (bifacial) solar cells are complicated and expensive.
The ‘Novel bifacial single-substrate solar cell utilising reflected solar radiation’ (Reflects) project was undertaken by European researchers to employ simple manufacturing processes for two-sided solar cells, thus providing a cost-effective means of enhancing capture of solar radiation.
Specifically, researchers used established Lithuanian technology for manufacturing single-sided mono-crystalline silicium (c-Si) solar cells to prepare the front end of the cell and essentially copied the process to produce the back end. This greatly simplifies the current manufacturing process for bifacial solar cells.
Reflects project outcomes have the potential to significantly increase the widespread implementation of PV cells for capturing solar radiation, both direct and indirect, with dramatic effects on GHG emissions, energy security/access and costs.
Commercialisation of the bifacial solar cells could thus protect the planet while enhancing the quality of life for people in underdeveloped countries with ample sunlight and yet limited access to electricity for simple appliances.
Reflect’s elegant and cost-effective solution has the potential to attract investors to an industry largely dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises, thus creating jobs and boosting economies around the world.