Perovskite Solar Update.

      2 Comments on Perovskite Solar Update.

The “holy grail” of solar energy?

It’s been over six years since Off Grid Ham first covered perovskite solar. For the unfamiliar, perovskite solar is a new type of photovoltaic technology that is based on perovskite-structure crystals. There are several advantages. First, is efficiency. Perovskite solar is far more efficient compared to conventional silicon solar. Second, is flexibility. Perovskite can be be thinner than current thin film solar. It’s so versatile, it has the potential to be applied like a coat of paint.

So what is the state of perovskite solar? Will it ever hit the market, or is it an off grid version of vaporware? Let’s try to pick this apart.

Tandem solar: The best of both.

The latest research indicates that the best energy harvest occurs when perovskite is combined with conventional silicon solar. This hybrid system is referred to as tandem cells or panels. The efficiency of tandem panels runs very close to a remarkable  30%. Legacy silicon hovers around 20%, often less.

The Sun produces a wide spectrum of light, but solar panels can produce energy only from a small bandwidth of that light. What if we could expand the bandwidth of useful light? The increase is possible because the two technologies respond to different colors of light. Perovskite and silicon complement each other, with each pulling energy out of light that the other cannot “see”.  This is why tandem panels are more efficient. Tandems effectively increase the opportunities to harvest electricity. In ham radio terms, it’s a better antenna.

Cross section of a perovskite solar panel. GRAPHIC COURTESY INNOVATIONTORONTO.COM

Now for all the caveats and fine print.

The most obvious problem with all this cutting edge technology is that right now it seems no one can buy perovskite solar panels. In spite of click bait internet ads claiming “yes, we really have perovskite solar,” it currently is not available.

I hunted all over the internet and could not find a clear answer as to when perovskite solar will be available for purchase by ordinary hams like us. Some sources state that the problems have not been resolved and it’s still in the research stage. Other sources state that factories are on line and production runs are slowly ramping up…which implies that they should be available for purchase on some level.

Another article from a credible source, dated May 2022, explains that one of the biggest hurdles to large scale perovskite is attracting investors willing to put up the money needed to scale up the technology. This angle makes a lot of sense. No technology, no matter how promising, will go anywhere without seed money.

I found this somewhat lengthy list of companies that purport to manufacture perovskite solar. After checking their individual corporate websites, not a single on of them actually offers a perovskite panel for sale. None of them —none!— even provide a list of distributors that sell them.  Furthermore, all of these companies are relatively unknown startups. None of the major names in solar: Panasonic, Renogy, Kyocera, etc., are yet in the perovskite arena.

Are you disappointed? Yeah.

If this analysis feels completely unsatisfying, it’s not just you! Silicon solar is many decades old and we’re anxious for a big advance in technology. All the advances in legacy silicon are on the production side, ie, making solar less expensive and easier to get. The base technology has changed very little over all this time. The lack of clear answers regarding perovskite is frustrating, but we can only work with the information we’re given.

This market study predicts perovskite will experience “tremendous growth” between now and 2031. This prediction should not excite anyone. Since growth right now is essentially zero, anything beyond that could plausibly be called “tremendous”.

My best estimate is that it will be at least a few years before perovskite solar will be available for consumer/retail purchase. The format should really take off when one of the big names enters the market. Until then, we’ll just have to be patient and chug along on legacy silicon, which is not a bad place to be.

2 thoughts on “Perovskite Solar Update.

  1. randall krippner

    That was interesting. Thanks Chris. I have to admit that it’s been so long since I heard anything about perovskite that I’d completely forgotten about the technology. I read your article last night and did a bit of research and from what I’ve been able to find you’re right about everything. Holy cow is there a lot of hype out there about these things when you start searching on the internet! Claims they’re going to be dirt cheap and be 250% better than silicon technology, etc. But hype and fluff and nonsense was all I could find. So I called a friend of mine who works in the energy industry and he steered me towards what’s really going on which is lots and lots of research but no actual commercial production because of a variety of issues.

    While the test panels show huge possibilities there have been some serious issues. One test in Germany showed problems with oxygen and moisture infiltration that caused the panels to degrade quickly. After 6 months in real world environments power production plummeted. Another problem apparently is heat. ( Apparently the material starts to break down when exposed to the kinds of heat they’d have to endure in real world conditions. Both problems may be solvable but it’s taking time to develop the right chemistry and production methods.

    Only two companies seem to finally be moving towards commercial production. Both of those seem to be years away from ramping up to commercially viable production levels.

    right now it looks like it’s going to be years yet before the technology filters down to people like us. That’s hugely disappointing because these really could be an enormous boost for home solar. One of the biggest problems we have, aside from costs, is finding space to put solar panels. Anything that increases their efficiency and shrinks down the size of the panels is going to be very helpful.

    Thanks again


    1. Chris Warren Post author

      Unfortunately at least for now there is more talk than action on perovskite.

      I’ve already seen the Reuters article you linked. From what I can tell, Oxford PV, mentioned in the article, is probably the closest to offering an actual product consumers can buy. But, they are one small operation in Europe so I’m not too hopeful. Also, the article is six months old and there’s been no movement since then.

      You are right that it’s going to be years before we can buy perovskite off the shelf; it’s also possible some other technology will “leapfrog” perovskite and make it obsolete before it even hits the market.

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