The future is light: The 3rd generation of solar energy
The global demand for energy is growing rapidly. Yet fossil fuel resources are nearing depletion. That’s why renewable energies, and solar power in particular, are the future of energy generation. The sun provides all of us with an unlimited source of energy. This has made the solar industry one of the world’s most important key industries. Similar to other technology industries – computer, flat screen monitors, etc. – the solar market has already gone through numerous stages of technological development:
1st generation: crystalline solar technology
This first generation of solar technology is now widely used on rooftops and for free-standing systems around the world. However, due to the technology’s special requirements, additional application possibilities are relatively limited. Low light conditions and rising temperatures also impact performance. Manufacture of these types of panels requires expensive raw materials (e.g. silicon wafers) and a long value added chain.
2nd generation: thin-film solar technology
This generation of solar panels has been successful on the market for several years – albeit still with a relatively small share. The main technologies in use here are CdTe, CI(G)s, and a-Si or micromorph PV. However, some fabrication uses toxic manufacturing processes, and various panels contain harmful materials, which can make the recycling of these green energy suppliers considerably more difficult and expensive. What’s more, some of the vital raw materials for this technology generation are quite rare, leaving production costs susceptible to long-term price increases.
3rd generation: organic solar technology
Organic photovoltaics is a future technology with great potential since it will facilitate the ever wider use of solar technology in coming years – not just on rooftops, but wherever clean energy is needed. Currently, the market only has a few manufacturers that have been able to offer this young technology. At the moment, organic photovoltaics uses three key technologies:
- 1. OPV oligomers (technology leader: Heliatek)
- 2. OPV polymers
- 3. OPV DSSC (dye-sensitized solar cells; hybrid technology)
In the mid to long-term, organic photovoltaics is projected to achieve higher profitability at a lower LCOE (levelized cost of electricity), including a shorter energy return time and a better ecological balance. Strong R&D expertise – the kind at Heliatek – is a prerequisite for making this a reality. Since August 2012, we have been delivering our organic solar films exclusively to our industry partners for product development activties.