Photovoltaics Research and Development 2: Modules and Systems (PVRD2)

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The Photovoltaics Research and Development 2: Modules and Systems (PVRD2) funding program aims to develop technologies with the potential to lead to new classes of commercial PV products that improve module performance, reliability, and manufacturability. PVRD2 builds on progress made in the first round of this funding program. The Department of Energy announced selections for PVRD2 on July 12, 2017. Read the announcement.

Approach

PVRD2 has three distinct focus areas that address solar energy costs through PV research and development:

  • Small exploratory projects to determine the potential of an innovative idea in PV hardware research and lay the groundwork for further development
  • Significant improvements in the performance, energy yield, manufacturability, and reliability of completed PV modules as well as the development of advanced methods for module characterization and analysis
  • Hardware and software solutions to facilitate the rapid, safe, and cost-effective deployment and commissioning of PV systems

Objectives

PVRD2 projects will contribute toward achieving the 2030 goal of reducing the levelized cost of energy of solar power to $0.03 per kilowatt hour. PVRD2 projects work to develop one or more innovations that, when combined with a portfolio of other solutions, will help achieve cost targets.

Awardees

Award and cost share amounts are subject to change pending negotiations. 

Topic 1 - Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS)

Project Name: Two-Dimensional Material Based Layer Transfer for Low-Cost, High-Throughput, High-Efficiency Solar Cells
Location: Cambridge, MA
SETO Award Amount: $225,000
Awardee Cost Share: $25,000
Principal Investigator: Jeehwan Kim
Project Summary: This project is developing an innovative method to reduce or eliminate the cost of expensive substrate materials, which are generally used to grow high-efficiency III-V solar cells. The research team is using a single crystal III-V substrate coated with a single layer of graphene and growing III-V solar cells on this stack in order to achieve the required cost reduction that helps to make III-V type solar cells a more realistic option for commercial use. Once the concept is realized, a graphene-containing substrate will provide releasable high-efficiency, single-crystalline, gallium arsenide solar cells whereby the wafer cost is greatly reduced.

Project Name: Fault Tolerant, Shade Tolerant High Voltage PV Modules
Location: Tempe, AZ
SETO Award Amount: $180,000
Awardee Cost Share: $20,000
Principal Investigator: Stuart Bowden
Project Summary: This project is developing a solar cell architecture called the M-CELL, which enables higher voltage and lower current than conventional photovoltaic modules. The M-CELL architecture results in a single silicon wafer where multiple cells are monolithically integrated and interconnected in series. This project is researching the series connection configuration, current-voltage characteristics, and impact of higher voltage on power losses of this early-stage technology.

Project Name: Perovskite Solar Cells: Addressing Low Cost, High Efficiency, and Reliability through Novel Hole Transport Materials
Location: Golden, CO
SETO Award Amount: $192,530
Awardee Cost Share: $21,385
Principal Investigator: Alan Sellinger
Project Summary: A very important component of a perovskite solar cell is the hole transport layer (HTL), which is generally the most expensive and a relatively unstable component of this early-stage technology. Currently, the state-of-the-art HTL is based on a lithium salt doped aromatic amine that is very difficult to prepare and has no paths to becoming cost-effective at high volume. This project is researching new HTL materials for perovskite solar cells to address the current bottlenecks, such as cost, tunable conductivity and energy levels, hydrophobicity, lithium-free dopants, and stability.

Project Name: Isovalent Alloying and Heterovalent Substitution for Super-efficient Halide Perovskite PV Solar Cells
Location: Boulder, CO
SETO Award Amount: $225,000
Awardee Cost Share: $25,000
Principal Investigator: Alex Zunger
Project Summary: The primary goal of this early-stage research is to apply solid state and semiconductor knowledge to improve understanding, design, and optimization of isovalent alloys of single halide perovskites. In addition, the research team is examining next-generation double perovskites, in which element pairs are replaced by heterovalent pairs. The theory of alloys, defects, novel materials, and materials-by-design is leveraged to remove limitations in the use of isovalent perovskite alloys and heterovalent substitution of halide perovskites in photovoltaic devices.

Project Name: Industrially Feasible, Dopant-Free Asymmetric Heterocontact (DASH) Silicon Solar Cells
Location: Berkeley, CA
SETO Award Amount: $225,000
Awardee Cost Share: $25,000
Principal Investigator: Ali Javey
Project Summary: This project is investigating novel dopant-free, asymmetric heterocontact (DASH) solar cells to understand the material properties needed for compatible metallization processes and encapsulation processes. Early-stage materials research is being performed to optimize cell architectures and materials in order to increase stability. The end goal of this project is to demonstrate a reliable cell with no significant drop in performance after back‐end processing and 1,000 hours at 85°C and 85 percent relative humidity damp heat testing.

Project Name: Tunneling Back-Contacted Silicon Photovoltaics
Location: Bethlehem, PA
SETO Award Amount: $117,291
Awardee Cost Share: $13,140
Principal Investigator: Nicholas Strandwitz
Project Summary: This project is investigating the introduction of atomic layer deposited (ALD) interlayers combined with metal oxide thin films that simultaneously allow selective carrier collection and passivate the silicon surface for silicon-based solar cells. This work employs ALD for the fabrication of these thin film layers, which is a potentially scalable technique capable of sub-nanometer control of film thickness, even on non-planar substrates. This work quantifies the electronic behavior of the contacts.

Project Name: Low-Cost Scaffold-Reinforced Perovskite Solar Modules with Integrated Light Management
Location: Stanford, CA
SETO Award Amount: $225,000
Awardee Cost Share: $56,250
Principal Investigator: Reinhold Dauskardt
Project Summary: Novel hybrid perovskites hold great promise for early-stage, next-generation solar cells. However, the mechanical fragility, chemical instability, and moisture sensitivity inherent to organometal trihalide perovskites must be addressed. This project focuses on researching a revolutionary new compound solar cell module design based on a recent breakthrough in Stanford’s lab that mitigates the chemical, thermal, and mechanical degradation of planar perovskite solar cells.

Project Name: Sound Assisted Low Temperature (SALT) Spalling: Upscaling and Throughput
Location: Tempe, AZ
SETO Award Amount: $222,519
Awardee Cost Share: $25,112
Principal Investigator: Mariana Bertoni
Project Summary: Exfoliating a wafer from a silicon block, known as spalling, has been shown to be a promising kerfless, or waste-saving technique in wafer production. This project is researching an early-stage, novel spalling process called sound assisted low temperature (SALT) spalling to address defects, wafer thickness, and surface planarity through the use of acoustic waves to sharpen and facilitate crack formation during the spalling process.

Project Name: Electroplated Aluminum - An Alternative to Copper or Silver Electrode in Silicon Solar Cells
Location: Tempe, AZ
SETO Award Amount: $225,000
Awardee Cost Share: $25,000
Principal Investigator: Meng Tao
Project Summary: This project is developing a simple, two-layer aluminum electrode to substitute the silver electrode in silicon solar cells. This includes the examination of electroplating to significantly reduce processing costs, improve module reliability and lifetime, and maintain high cell efficiency.

Project Name: High Lifetime and Mobility Cadmium Telluride Alloys by Co-sublimation
Location: Fort Collins, CO
SETO Award Amount: $162,702
Awardee Cost Share: $18,094
Principal Investigator: Walajabad Sampath
Project Summary: This project is investigating the composition and grading of cadmium telluride (CdTe) materials to understand the effects of novel, early-stage fabrication techniques on carrier lifetime, doping levels, and device performance. Materials and device characterization will provide insight into the unique properties of these materials. The project aims to produce improved carrier lifetimes and device performance for CdTe-based devices.

Project Name: Revealing the Mechanism of Light Induced Degradation and Regeneration of p-type Cz-Si
Location: Golden, CO
SETO Award Amount: $225,000
Awardee Cost Share: $25,000
Principal Investigator: Sumit Agarwal
Project Summary: This project employs advanced spectroscopic tools to explore boron-oxygen related defects in p-type Czochralski (Cz) monocrystalline silicon that informs processing strategies to permanently suppress these defects and improve cell efficiency. Early-stage materials research is improving understanding of the hydrogenation and dehydrogenation of B-O complexes, and light-stimulated electron spin resonance methods is clarifying their bonding configurations and evolution during intense illumination.

Topic 2A: Advanced Module Design and Fabrication

SunPower Corporation

Project Name: Aligned Wire Metallization and Stringing for Back Contact Solar Cells
Location: San Jose, CA
SETO Award Amount: $1,200,000
Awardee Cost Share: $365,928
Principal Investigator: Richard Sewell
Project Summary: Solar modules based on interdigitated back contact (IBC) solar cells provide the highest efficiency and reliability currently available in the market. Despite the fundamental advantages of IBC modules, they are costly due to the complexity of the cell manufacturing process. This project aims to use newly conceived surface bonding procedures to completely change the approach to cell metallization and interconnection that is used to produce IBC modules, which has the potential to reduce the number of relevant process steps by more than 50% and significantly reduce the cost of module fabrication.

Project Name: Perovskite on Silicon Tandem Solar Cells
Location: Stanford, CA
SETO Award Amount: $1,365,306
Awardee Cost Share: $192,235
Principal Investigator: Michael McGehee
Project Summary: This project is studying newly developed perovskite on silicon tandem modules to determine the best interconnection design and material properties for each module component. The perovskite material is being characterized and modified to produce a top cell with an ideal band gap and few structural and electronic defects. Modeling is helping to predict outdoor panel performance under realistic spectral variations, which affects how well the electrical current is balanced between the two types of cells.

Project Name: Advanced Module Architecture for Reduced Costs, High Durability and Significantly Improved Manufacturability
Location: Fort Collins, CO
SETO Award Amount: $1,015,000
Awardee Cost Share: $138,000
Principal Investigator: Kurt Barth
Project Summary: This project is investigating new encapsulant materials and edge sealing methods that have the potential to provide enhanced durability and reliability for thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules. The proposed method also offers the potential for higher manufacturing speed at reduced cost. Key areas of investigation include obtaining a complete understanding of layer formation during the encapsulation process as well as the evolution of material properties, interfaces, and module behavior over time during accelerated testing.

Project Name: Improving Solar Panel Durability through Novel Panel Designs, Advanced Manufacturing Equipment, and Field Retrofits to Existing Systems
Location: Westford, MA
SETO Award Amount: $600,000
Awardee Cost Share: $150,000
Principal Investigator: Andrew Gabor
Project Summary: This project is conducting a fundamental study on the nature of cracked cells in crystalline silicon solar panels with the goal of improving module materials and designs to make them more resilient against crack initiation, propagation, and degradation over time due to the electrical isolation of cell segments. Key areas of investigation include determining the effects of accelerated lifetime testing on modules in inducing power loss due to cell cracking, and how these effects can be mitigated.

Project Name: Direct Metallization with Reactive Inks – Assessment of Reliability and Process Sensitivities
Location: Tempe, AZ
SETO Award Amount: $1,400,000
Awardee Cost Share: $155,601
Principal Investigator: Owen Hildreth
Project Summary: This project is investigating the material and growth properties of reactive metal inks in order to explore their potential use in the metallization of silicon solar cell. The research team seeks to radically change the cost structure of the cell by dramatically reducing silver consumption. This technique is of particular importance to temperature sensitive devices, such as heterojunction architectures, where the low processing temperatures of reactive inks offer a significant advantage and alternative metallization methods are currently expensive.

Project Name: Enhanced Convection for Higher Module and System Efficiency
Location: Portland, OR
SETO Award Amount: $1,040,000
Awardee Cost Share: $115,698
Principal Investigator: Raul Cal
Project Summary: This project is developing new solar photovoltaic (PV) modules and solar system-scale designs that promote a minimum 40 percent increase of the convective heat transfer coefficient. This reduces the operating temperature of PV panels and leads to a higher annual energy yield and a potentially significant increase in the reliability of PV modules over time. Extensive modeling and early-stage experimentation is underway to determine the dynamics of air flow needed to produce vortex generation and flow channeling effects and to reduce overall thermal heterogeneity geographically across the array.

Topic 2B: Module Characterization, Modeling, and Analysis

Project Name: Reliability and Power Degradation Rates of PERC Modules Using Differentiated Packaging Strategies and Characterization Tools
Location: Cleveland, OH
SETO Award Amount: $1,465,291
Awardee Cost Share: $175,830
Principal Investigator: Roger French
Project Summary: This project is conducting a systematic study of module degradation pathways in next generation passivated emitter and rear cell (PERC) photovoltaic (PV) modules, benchmarking them relative to known degradation mechanisms and pathways of older module designs that have been exposed to real-world and accelerated exposure conditions. Statistical models are being used to understand the dominant physical degradation mechanisms that occur in the field, which allows for new and previously unmapped material interactions that are present in newly developed module architectures to be modeled, characterized, and ultimately accounted for in future design efforts.

Project Name: Non-Contact Simultaneous String-Modules I-V Tracer
Location: Tempe, AZ
SETO Award Amount: $709,999
Awardee Cost Share: $79,000
Principal Investigator: Govindasamy Tamizhmani
Project Summary: This project examines new field characterization methods that allow for the rapid and accurate characterization of photovoltaic (PV) modules under operating conditions. Existing methods for characterizing fielded module performance at high granularity are expensive and time consuming, and have been unable to reliably account for differences between lab and fielded conditions. Understanding these differences is vital when attempting to track the physical causes of various changes in performance observed in the field. A combination of measurement development, algorithms, and physical understanding are combined to produce methods to enable accurate degradation science and fielded performance monitoring to be conducted on large populations of modules in order to enable the continuous detection of variations in the physical behavior of modules under operation.

Project Name: Spread Spectrum Time Domain Reflectivity for String Monitoring in PV Power Plants
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
SETO Award Amount: $675,000
Awardee Cost Share: $90,000
Principal Investigator: Michael Scarpulla
Project Summary: This project is investigating the application of Spread Spectrum Time Domain Reflectivity (SSTDR) to monitor operating strings of modules in large photovoltaic (PV) arrays. SSTDR can detect, and spatially localize, changes in the impedance of the system in real-time, including at high voltages and currents. This allows monitoring of intermittent and slowly-evolving degradation and failure modes, and potentially enables more efficient characterization of PV power plants, which will maximize future energy output, reduce the levelized cost of electricity, and increase bankability.

Power Factors

Project Name: Single Model Characterization
Location: Larkspur, CA
SETO Award Amount: $551,644
Awardee Cost Share: $142,000
Principal Investigator: Steve Voss
Project Summary: This project is developing a methodology capable of quantifying and categorizing all losses from nominal energy to energy delivered by PV systems. This methodology can be consistently applied to the outputs of state of the art fielded energy yield models. This represents a significant streamlining of the way PV experts compare large modeled and measured datasets, and would facilitate future improvements in agreement between energy yield models and energy production datasets, which are vital to improving the reliability and bankability of PV systems. This project enhances the quality and handling of performance data and future modeling efforts.

Project Name: Understanding and Overcoming Water-Induced Interfacial Degradation in Silicon Modules
Location: San Diego, CA
SETO Award Amount: $588,505
Awardee Cost Share: $83,333
Principal Investigator: David Fenning
Project Summary: This project is developing a spatially-resolved characterization methodology to detect the location and amount of water present in photovoltaic (PV) modules and to model any predicted acceleration in performance degradation. The project team is examining the physical underpinnings of these effects by combining first-principles atomistic modeling of the segregation, diffusion, and chemical effects of interfacial water with continuum finite element method modeling of water distribution and its effects. Based on the resulting physical model of a module’s water exposure over time and predicted changes in material properties and power output, the project team plans to develop statistical response surface models to predict a module’s hazard function.

Project Name: Operando X-ray Nanocharacterization of Polycrystalline Thin Film Modules
Location: Tempe, AZ
SETO Award Amount: $859,253
Awardee Cost Share: $189,564
Principal Investigator: Mariana Bertoni
Project Summary: This project is developing an X-ray-based characterization framework that enables nanoscale module mapping at different length scales for cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium selenide cells under a variety of operating conditions. The project team is using several lab-based mapping and synchrotron-based techniques coupled with the collection of IV curves in custom-designed stages capable of handling different temperatures, atmospheres, and illumination conditions. This work will allow for a better understanding of the nanoscale composition and structural changes that occur during module operation. It will also enable the development of proposed pathways to reduce the rates of the associated degradation, which will enable higher module efficiencies, longer warranties, and lower degradation rates.

Project Name: Characterization of Contact Degradation in Crystalline Silicon PV Modules
Location: Cocoa, FL
SETO Award Amount: $1,581,926
Awardee Cost Share: $395,781
Principal Investigator: Kristopher Davis
Project Summary: This project is developing a highly-automated metrology solution that can non-destructively extract the series resistance and dark current of individual cells encapsulated within a photovoltaic (PV) module with minimal uncertainty for both parameters using calibrated electroluminescence imaging. This metrology can be used in reliability and durability evaluations to accelerate cycles of learning and to help develop new technologies and integrate them into high-volume manufacturing.

Project Name: LCOE Reduction through Proactive Operations of PV Systems
Location: Cocoa, FL
SETO Award Amount: $1,599,821
Awardee Cost Share: $177,800
Principal Investigator: Joseph Walters
Project Summary: This project is developing a new monitoring system for characterizing fielded photovoltaic (PV) modules in order to provide greater certainty and detail in fielded energy output and degradation rates over their lifetimes using a central inverter. New methods for data analysis and interpretation algorithms are under development in order to detect degradation trends and mechanisms in the fielded systems. Additionally, the project is developing a model to examine the effects that different resolution PV monitoring systems have on the levelized cost of electricity from utility-scale plants based on their design, size, location, environmental considerations, and expected system lifetime.

Topic 3: Rapid PV System Deployment

Project Name: DC Arc-Flash Safety for 1,500VDC: Methodology, Verification, and Codifying
Location: Charlotte, NC
SETO Award Amount: $1,010,726
Awardee Cost Share: $112,303
Principal Investigator: Michael Bolen
Project Summary: The rapid release of thermal energy, pressure waves, and electromagnetic interference from an arc-flash all pose risks to people and equipment in a photovoltaic (PV) plant. However, there is a lack of understanding regarding how to calculate incident energy from direct current arc-flashes. This project is increasing the fundamental understanding of arc-flash mechanics in PV systems and providing the quantitative foundation and recommendations for adoption by the industry.

Project Name: Adhesive Mounting of Conventional PV Modules for Residential Solar
Location: Boston, MA
SETO Award Amount: $800,000
Awardee Cost Share: $212,820
Principal Investigator: Christian Honeker
Project Summary: This project aims to reduce the installation cost of photovoltaic (PV) systems by researching a non-penetrating adhesive mounting interface for securing conventional framed and glass-glass modules to asphalt shingles. Key areas of investigation include characterizing and understanding the direction and balance of forces between the proposed adhesive chemistry and the target surface, and the physical changes that take place within and near the mounting materials over time in operating conditions. 

 

Learn more about SETO's other photovoltaic funding programs.