PROJECT PROFILE: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (PVRD)

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Project Name: Research and Development of Architectures for Photovoltaic Cell-Level Power Balancing Using Diffusion Charge Redistribution
Funding Opportunity: PVRD
SunShot Subprogram: Photovoltaics
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
SunShot Award Amount: $807,817
Awardee Cost Share: $84,450
Project Investigator: Al-Thaddeus Avestruz

This project is conducting photovoltaic (PV) cell-level power balancing using diffusion charge redistribution to increase efficiency, lower manufacturing costs, and improve reliability, which will reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) to $0.06 per kilowatt hour in the short term and $0.02 to $0.03 per kilowatt hour in the long-term. This work will enable cell-level power optimization and transform a string of solar cells into a single “super-cell” that eliminates cell imbalances, mismatches, and partial failures.

Approach

The research team will investigate the use of the intrinsic energy storage already in the solar cells together with cost-effective integrated circuits to optimize the power extraction for each individual cell. Nearly all adverse effects from partial shading as well as cell imbalances, mismatches, and partial failures will be eliminated.

Innovation

Shading represents a significant and ongoing barrier to extracting the entire value of the solar installation investment. A shaded cell can limit the power output of all the cells within the panel—for example, a 10% overall shading can lead to a 50% decline in total output power for a system. By focusing on the power of each individual cell, this project will reduce the impact of shading and cell mismatch and increase reliability, durability, and yield, which will help lower solar manufacturing costs.