Distributed Generation Drives the Next Wave of Photovoltaic Solar Energy Innovation

High-efficiency silicon technologies will target rapidly growing residential and commercial installations, pushing leading module costs down to $0.48/Wp in 2020.


High-efficiency silicon technologies are the next wave of solar innovation, raising module efficiencies as high as 24% over the next five years. These technologies will boost the ability of distributed generation (DG) – mainly on residential and commercial roofs – to compete with big utility-scale solar farms, according to Lux Research.

The emerging technologies – such as passivated emitter, rear-contact (PERC) and metal wrap through (MWT) and even more efficient bifacial cells – will push leading module costs down to $0.48/Wp in 2020.

“High-efficiency silicon modules are the key to capturing the distributed generation market because these modules maximize power output in a limited space, helping DG compete with utility-scale photovoltaic plants,” said Tiffany Huang, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report titled, “Silicon Solar Cell and Module Roadmap.”

Lux Research analysts assessed innovations in solar cell architecture and the emerging landscape. Among their findings:

  • PERC will be an early winner. PERC beats incumbent mobile technologies on efficiency and rival technologies on account of its lower capex, emerging an early winner. Major solar manufacturers such as Hanwha Q-cells, Trina, JA Solar and Sun Edison are already commercializing PERC technologies.
  • MWT deployment will gain momentum by 2020. Metal wrap through (MWT) products will reach large-scale deployment by the end of the decade, while other high-efficiency technologies like heterojunction and interdigitated back contact solar cells (IBC) will continue to meet demands for even higher efficiencies.
  • Bifacial modules will gain niche markets in DG. Solar modules that can absorb light on both the front and the back sides can be useful in distributed roof-mounted installations in high-reflectivity settings or aesthetics-driven building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) markets. They will lose out in traditional roof-mounted installations where back-side generation is limited, however.

The report, titled “Silicon Solar Cell and Module Roadmap,” is part of the Lux Research Solar Intelligence service.

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