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It may not roll off the tongue but perovskite is the talk of solar energy circles. The material, named after 19th century mineralogist Lev Perovski, promises to revolutionise the industry with its efficiency gains. British start-up Oxford PV is one of those leading the charge.
Perovskite-based cells are able to capture about 20 per cent more energy from sunlight than traditional ones made from silicon. Oxford PV’s panels boast an efficiency of almost 29 per cent. That is 5 percentage points higher than the norm. With further improvements, Perovskite-based cells are expected to convert nearly 40 per cent of the sun’s energy into electricity.
Oxford PV’s technology works by combining a thin film of perovskite on top of a silicon one. That is costlier on a per unit basis but cheaper in terms of the energy produced. They are particularly suitable where space is tight. Oxford PV aims to focus on residential use.
Oxford PV, a spinout from Oxford university, is just beginning its path to scale. It is ramping up production to prepare for its first commercial sales due next year. Capacity at its German facility will be about 100MW. That might generate revenues in the region of $30mn annually.
Oxford PV is not alone. Other companies pursuing the technology include US-listed First Solar, a global manufacturer of photovoltaic technology. It recently acquired Swedish perovskite group Evolar for as much as $80mn to advance its ambitions with the new technology.
Perovskite-based cells are coming on stream as Europe and the US attempt to build up their manufacturing capacity to reduce their reliance on China. Competition will be intense. But innovators have a chance to compete on performance rather than purely on cost.
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