PV is the fastest-growing energy source globally, and pivotal for Europe's energy transition. Advancing PV research and innovation will be important for addressing current challenges such as bringing down the cost of electricity, making panels reliable and sustainable, and delivering new energy services via PV.
Although Europe had already demonstrated a strong commitment through funding programmes such as Horizon Europe, helping to advance PV technologies, significant investments will be required in the coming years to deliver on the European objectives of PV deployment and domestic manufacturing.
Horizon Europe, the EU’s flagship research and innovation programme, opened a budget of €1.21 billion supporting R&I for climate, energy and mobility projects between 2021-2027.
The European solar PV sector’s research representation to the European Commission - European Technology and Innovation Platform for Photovoltaics (ETIP PV) - outlines the key priorities and actions needed to drive the development and deployment of photovoltaic (PV) technology in Europe.
Bringing down the cost of electricity
Over the past few decades, we've witnessed a significant drop in the cost of generating electricity from photovoltaics (PV). Nonetheless, the large-scale use of PV will require reducing the costs even further, while increasing efficiency and improving reliability, durability and longer lifetime.
Tandem PV modules – above all in the area of silicon-perovskite tandem technology – is one main focus of R&I efforts to reduce electricity generation costs and lower resource consumption compared to conventional silicon solar cells.
It is important that the EU will build on this momentum and continues to invest in research and development of cutting-edge solar technologies and enable market uptake.
Lifetime reliability and sustainability enhancements
Reliability is crucial when it comes to photovoltaic modules and systems. We will need to minimise negative environmental impacts that may arise during their lifetime. To achieve this, the industry must constantly demand increased field performance and reliability, especially with the introduction of new technologies and novel PV system designs.
New Applications through Integration of PV
Due to its modularity, PV is a highly adaptable technology that can be used in a wide range of systems, from small-scale Watts installations to large-scale Gigawatts installations. The versatility of PV allows its seamless integration into its environment, and maximises the efficient use of space. For instance, PV technology can be integrated into buildings (BIPV), vehicles (VIPV), landscapes and agriculture (agrivoltaics), water bodies (floating PV), infrastructure (IIPV), and low-power energy harvesting applications.
The inherent modularity opens up the possibility to create innovative and sustainable solutions, that address the needs of its environment. This may be particularly important in urban environments where space is limited, and energy demand is high. Integrated PV can also help to increase the public support for solar, making it less intrusive and more aesthetically pleasing than the traditional solar panels.
Smart Energy System Integration of PV
PV technology is experiencing significant growth in independent applications, ranging from small-scale installations on residential and commercial building rooftops or facades, to larger commercial systems and even utility-scale installations. These systems are connected to the transmission grid, and provide non-dispatchable energy to the integrated grid, which is managed by grid operators. The success of the integration of PV in the grid will rely on the adoption of enabling technologies that can respond to energy demand and supply in real-time.
Research priorities include the availability of forecasting tools for PV systems, with open access and the development of energy storage capacity.
Action at the European level is crucial for solar PV research and innovation. It not only enables collaboration and resource pooling, but also supports policy alignment, and can foster the ‘lab-to-fab’ scale up of solar PV technologies.
EU funding programmes like Horizon Europe play a vital role in shaping innovation in the PV sector by allocating funds specifically for PV R&I. They also encourage scientific advancements, accelerate technological breakthroughs, and enhance the competitiveness of the European PV industry on a global scale. Currently, Horizon Europe is the largest single public facility in Europe to support PV R&I.
Projects often involve various stakeholders, such as small and medium-sized enterprises, local and regional governments, non-profit organisations, and consumers.
Previous Horizon Europe funded projects have provided unique funding opportunities in the solar PV sector.
- EVERPV: SolarPower Europe is a partner of this 3-year Horizon Europe funded project, which will aim to: offer sustainable solutions for handling end-of-life solar PV panels in the EU; optimise PV recycling techniques; and evaluate the circular value chains of end-of-life PV panels.
- INCREASE: SolarPower Europe is a partner of this 4 ½ year Horizon Europe funded project, which will aim to: improve the quality and standardisation of BIPV systems, for example on heritage buildings; develop new technologies for more reliable and aesthetically pleasing integrated PV products; and foster cross-sectoral cooperation between all building stakeholders to increase awareness about PV integrated systems.
- TRUST-PV: SolarPower Europe is a partner of this 4-year Horizon Europe funded research project, which will aim to: improve the performance and reliability of solar power plants; and support the development of O&M-friendly and grid-friendly solar PV components and solutions.
At Solar Power Europe, our research and innovation team is closely involved in supporting the advancements and tackling the challenges of PV research and innovation. We are part of the ETIP PV Secretariat with WIP Renewable Energies, and in close contact with the research community and industry, in identifying the how to advance European PV technologies.
SolarPower Europe is also involved in several research projects. Within the consortia, SolarPower Europe is committed to communicating and disseminating research results to industry and policymakers, and providing policy recommendations to drive the PV industry forward.
© Meyer Burger