Sven RösnerDeputy Director of the French-German Office for Renewable Energy
"R&D is crucial in photovoltaics to position Europe in the high-efficiency solar cell segment"
R&D is crucial in photovoltaics to position Europe in the high-efficiency solar cell segment and differentiate the region's industry from the mass production coming out of Asian countries. Sven Rösner, Deputy Director of the French-German Office for Renewable EnergyEnergy sources that are naturally replenished so quickly that they can be considered inexhaustible on a human time scale..., tells Planète Energies about the perspectives offered by close cooperation between European researchers.
The European approach to developing photovoltaic solar energyEnergy produced by the photovoltaic effect. offers an alternative to price competition for conventional panels, which currently account for the vast majority of modules sold. In this market, eastern Asian countries, including China, have clearly established a dominant position. The European approach is to focus on improving cell efficiency and lifespan; developing new thin-film, poly- and mono-crystalline siliconSilicon crystals come from silica, the main compound in quartz and sand. Silicon is a semi-conducting material. and organic cell technologies; and improving production process efficiency. Another key objective is to improve ongoing training for module manufacturers.
This quest for quality is consistent with French and German industrial policy, which favors rooftop installations that take up less space over large ground-based solar farms.
For the approach to succeed, European countries need to work together. This is the goal of European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) joint programs, including those related to photovoltaic solar energy (EERA-PV). They combine 37 partners in 19 countries, with CEA-international nuclear and radiological event scale (ines)Scale used to classify the severity of nuclear incidents and accidents. It comprises 8 levels, from 0 to 7..., the Fraunhofer-ISE Institute of Freiburg and the Helmholtz Institute in Berlin playing a major role.
Individually, each institute has limited financial resources, so instead of devoting money to new units, the idea is to pool existing infrastructure. One institute may have equipment for working on crystalline silicon, while another may have thin-film measurement tools. The goal is to share equipment, knowledge and results. It boils down to creating a kind of virtual laboratory that can leverage all the assets of the different participating laboratories. Researchers in each institute have networked into five working groups to share their data. They meet regularly under the auspices of a coordinating group.
These researchers work in close collaboration with European industry. All researchers want to get results, but it is hard to move from an ideal world where everything is possible to an industrial world where you have to make a profit and develop financially viable solutions.
One stellar example of French and German cooperation is the development of ultra-thin solar cell transfer technology by Fraunhofer ISE as part of the SolarBond project conducted with CEA Tech, which is now being used by French company Soitec. This cell, which is equipped with a lens, is now the core of the world’s most efficient photovoltaic system.
This is a pragmatic, practical approach based on genuine convergence. One often hears calls to build a “solar Airbus,” in other words, a European giant in the solar power industry. The idea is appealing, but backers also need to consider the future of companies already in place, which could be destabilized, and the reality of market demand, both in Europe and globally. As Andreas Rüdinger, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable DevelopmentThis term was first defined in the Brundtland Report, published in 1987, as “development that meets the needs of the present without... and International Relations (IDDRI), put it: “Before talking about creating an energy Airbus, we first need to think about building the runway.”
Deputy Director of the French-German Office for Renewable Energy (OFAEnR), Sven Rösner is responsible for relations with OFAEnR’s partners, and represents the Office at external events such as conferences, congresses, seminars and trade fairs. Mr. Rösner was previously Marketing Manager at kiloWattsol, an independent technical advisor in the field of renewable energies. As part of his responsibilities, he has been involved in the publication of studies on the photovoltaic market in France, and has contributed to the development of several solar projects.