Another Research Project on Solar Energy at the University of Konstanz

"SolarWinS" funded with just under 1.2 million Euros

On 1 February 2011, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) approved the national collaborative project "SolarWinS" (Solar Research Cluster to determine the maximum efficiency levels of polycrystalline silicon) in which the University of Konstanz is participating with a major sub-project.

This collaboration with SolarWinS aims to determine the maximum efficiency level of polycrystalline silicon in comparison to the monocrystalline material. According to the latest state of research, the monocrystalline silicon delivers an efficiency level of around 19% for industrially produced solar cells, the level for the much cheaper monocrystalline lies at just around 17%. If we could succeed in closing this efficiency gap, solar energy would become much more cost friendly, since only the technology with the better price-performance level will be able to assert itself long term. "This 2% difference doesn't sound much, but it is not only scientifically relevant, but also economically highly relevant. An increase in the efficiency level of just 1% can already mean an annual additional gain of more than 20 million euros per year for a company with a production capacity of around 100 million solar cells per year," calculates Prof. Giso Hahn, Director of the Department for Photovoltaics at the University of Konstanz, who is also in charge of Konstanz's project tranche at SolarWinS. For the future of the solar industry, and with it the associated investments, this is of prime importance.

With a total of 13 institutional and eleven industrial partners, the project is being funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) with a total of around 5.5 million euros over the coming three years. SolarWinS is divided into nine sub-projects, which, besides the University of Konstanz, are headed by the following research institutes. The Fraunhofer-Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Freiburg), the Institute for Solar Energy Research Hameln, the Georg-August-University Göttingen, the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics Halle, the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus, the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology (Bergakademie Freiberg) and the Fraunhofer-Institute for Integrated Systems and Component Technology Erlangen. Industrial partners include Arise Technologies GmbH (Bischofswerda), Bosch Solar Energy AG (Erfurt), Q-Cells SE (Bitterfeld-Wolfen), Conergy Solarmodules GmbH & Co. KG (Frankfurt/Oder), Schott Solar Wafer GmbH (Jena), Solland Solar Cells GmbH (Aachen), Sovello AG (Bitterfeld-Wolfen), Sunways AG (Konstanz), H.C. Starck GmbH (Goslar), PVSilicon GmbH (Erfurt) as well as Wacker Chemie AG (München) and many other important players from the German photovoltaics industry are represented.

In order the raise the efficiency levels of the polycrystalline solar cells, the production factors first need to be determined, which have a performance-limiting impact on the material. Working in collaboration with all the project partners, an analysis will be made of how changes influence the material and production processes. "In this respect, the opportunity to cooperate with industrial partners from the whole production chain, which SolarWinS made possible, is particularly a great advantage. Working together, for example, we can try out various production approaches in order to analyse the influence of impurities or contaminations in the production of polycrystalline silicon. The project's strength lies not least in the diversity of the partners from industry and science with various types of expertise, "emphasises Annika Zuschlag, PhD student at the Department of Photovoltaics, University of Konstanz, which has taken on the Konstanz-based part of the overall coordination of SolarWinS. The whole project coordination is independent on the various sub-projects and is shared between the University of Konstanz and the Freiburg Material Research Centre (FMF).

In the last ten years, the photovoltaics industry has grown by around 50% per year. At the end of 2010, plants were installed in Germany which made it possible to produce 3% of the total power supply by means of photovoltaics. "The market for solar energy is booming, the next step is to not only to quickly develop new fine-tuned technologies, but also to train enough sufficiently qualified specialists for the solar industry," says Giso Hahn, summarising the challenges that face photovoltaics.