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Automated photovoltaic cell and Module industrial Production to regain and secure European Renewable Energy market

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AMPERE (Automated photovoltaic cell and Module industrial Production to regain and secure European Renewable Energy market)

Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2018-10-31

Today’s world PV market is dominated by standard crystalline solar cells and part of the market is shifting to PERC solar cells. Next generation c-Si technologies should feature higher efficency solar cells with less processing steps in the manufacturing, allowing for further cost reduction, both at PV panel level and for the final cost of solar electricity.
Within this framework, the aim of AMPERE is to develop an EU innovative and sustainable manufacturing full-scale automated industrial pilot line (TRL7-8), to produce bifacial heterojunction technology (HJT) silicon solar cells and modules. Technical, Economic and Environmental sustainability of the production line will be demonstrated. In particular the high efficiency and intrinsic bifaciality of the selected technology will ensure higher annual energy production and hence significantly lower LCOE than conventional technologies. These expected outcomes will be assessed and evaluated as a solid backbone to pave the way to the 1 GWp factory scaling up in Europe.
The expected impact of AMPERE is a regain of competitiveness in the entire EU PV value chain (from materials, to equipment and cell/module manufacturers). It is based on a unique consortium, with worldwide experience in the field of coatings, HJT cell and module processing, which capitalize on one decade of advanced industrialization and development in the field. It is also based on the unique expertise gained in production of thin film modules in the previous EGP Catania production environment, which can be applied for the production of HJT cells and modules.
AMPERE project is developed in 8 Work Packages over a 3 years timeframe. WP1 holds the management and coordination actions, supporting all the activities in a coherent and smooth manner. The whole project and after-project success are guided by WP2 and WP8 with a study of the economic aspect and the associated business models and exploitation of the results and their replications in the future. The core technical WPs are the WP3, WP4 and WP5. In WP3 and WP4, the new solar cell and module technologies are developed in order to implement them to the full-scale industrial production. WP3 and WP4 outputs are to be implemented and tested in WP5 on the full-scale production lines with an effort on the automation. Within WP6, the reliability and the energy yield of the products is in study. WP7 focuses on communication and dissemination activities to reach the widest possible community.
WP3 team work has focused on the identification of the major issues limiting efficiency in production-like environment. Roadmap study to 22.5% average efficiency in continuous production has been completed with solutions and feasibility analysis. Industrial compatible solar cells have been produced on the pilot line of CEA-INES. Experimental results support the technological path for transfer to production level towards the 22.5% efficiency at EGP Catania site, and outlooks towards 23.5%.
WP4 main outcomes are the transfer of the best method for module production to EGP site, together with the industrial demonstration of new generation SmartWire technology in Meyer Burger. Target is to achieve 380Wp with 72cell modules. Simulations have been performed to evaluate the module performance for different cell interconnections, highlighting the best configuration to reach module optimal power. Mechanical analysis (simulation and bending tests) had been performed. The new installed module production line at EGP has already produced around 15’000 bifacial glass/glass modules with third party cells and 4 busbars. The certification process of the final module will start at the end of 2018. CEA has built a “first generation” set of HJT bifacial modules to perform mechanical tests and outdoor measurement campaign that will be performed within WP6. In parallel, new generation SmartWire technology was further developed and demonstrated for 72-cells modules configuration, bringing to maturity a new stringer equipment.
A cell to module (CTM) performance criterion has been studied for the different technologies of interest. Preliminary bifacial module measurements test has been done, together with the associated CTM calculation. A methodology to measure bifacial devices has been proposed in the IEC 60904-1-2 frame.
The main WP5 objective is to develop innovative automation solutions for wafer, cells, and modules transportation and handling along the whole production line, re-using as much as possible of the existing infrastructure and process tools of the old EGP/3SUN thin film fab: the conversion of the infrastructure and its automation has been thoroughly evaluated in the first 6 months.
A metrology equipment dedicated to characterize HJT cell passivation layers has been developed in WP5 and will be tested in WP3. As these types of metrology are expected to be critical for a HJT line, they will be tested in an off-line condition first and their on-line integration will be planned beyond the end of the project. At the end of M18 the first equipments of HJT cell line and the automation equipment are in installation at EGP Catania site and start up is forecasted within M24.
WP6 activity is focused on the reliability and performance study of products related to WP3 and WP4. Current standards demonstrates only the capability of modules to avoid early infant mortality but is not able to guarantee both reliability and durability. There is the need to define new accelerated ageing protocols beyond current standards. In this scenario Cell round-robin has been closed
The technologies developed in the project represent an innovation with respect to the market situation and with respect to the current practice in Industry: HJT is a very attractive candidate to compete against Asian mainstream technologies, in terms of both performances and module reliability. HJT solar cells are intrinsically bifacial cells with high ratio between back side and front side efficiency (> 92 % to 100 %). The reduced losses, due to low temperature coefficient, and cell bifaciality enable to achieve key performance gain in the field, with higher energy yield than mainstream technologies.
The project will respond to the EU requirements to support a sustainable growth addressing all the pillars of the sustainability concept: People (social sector), Planet (environmental sector), and Profit (economic sector). As these pillars are often interconnected, the actions adopted in one sector could contribute to maximize the effect of the expected impact in a different sector. This interconnection is incorporated in the project as a clear task in the scenarios definition and in the exploitation strategy including the Cost Benefit analysis for the project solutions.