Texas State solar research charged up by SunShot Initiative award

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Posted by Jayme Blaschke
Office of Media Relations
September 14, 2016

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative has selected a research team led by Texas State University to develop industrially-relevant photovoltaic (PV) technologies to reduce the cost of generating solar energy.

Texas State is partnering with the University of Toledo and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on the project.

The team’s research centers on a new method to pinpoint the barriers that prevent further improvement of one of the most important contributors to PV efficiency —  the open-circuit voltage (Voc).

“This SunShot-funded research will lead to precision Voc engineering to immediately impact solar module efficiency and manufacturability,” said principal investigator Jian V. Li, associate professor in the Department of Physics and the Materials Science, Engineering, and Commercialization (MSEC) program at Texas State.

The SunShot Initiative is designed to accelerate the market competitiveness of solar energy by targeting production cost reductions and increased solar deployment, with a 2020 target cost of $0.06 per kilowatt hour for utility-scale solar technologies that is roughly equal to electricity generation cost from fossil fuels.

“We are very excited to work with our collaborators at the University of Toledo and NREL to improve understanding of carrier dynamics in PV materials for reaching higher efficiencies,” said Mark Holtz, co-PI for the project and MSEC University Chair Professor at Texas State.

Improving Voc is of top priority for thin-film PV (TFPV) materials. However, Voc engineering of TFPV is hampered by the lack of an advanced pinpoint methodology to reliably link Voc to materials synthesis. The Texas State-led team has proposed to remove this long-standing disadvantage for TFPV by developing the next-generation method for quantitative determination of all types of recombination rates in PV devices with spatial resolution, dynamic range and accuracy.

The Texas State team–Li and Holtz–is joined by Yanfa Yan (co-PI, Physics Department, Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization, University of Toledo) and Lorelle Mansfield (co-PI, National Center for Photovoltaics, National Renewable Energy Laboratory). Upon successful completion of all three phases, the Energy Department will have invested $1 million of the research project’s $1.26 million total.

About the SunShot Initiative

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.