The European photovoltaics PV market still represents the predominant share of worldwide installations and electricity generated from PV is becoming increasingly competitive, with an average levelized cost of energy (LCOE) estimated to be between 0.10–0.16 €/kWh in 2011 . This constant reduction of LCOE means that the European industry can only regain its competitiveness with (i) a concomitant reduction of production and investment costs (current net price level ~0.8–1.0 €/Wp today) in Europe in order to face the strong price competition of emerging countries (China and Taiwan), (ii) investment in novel “advanced” industrial processes allowing for high efficiencies and low-cost device production (iii) the development of high-end tools and processes which are more difficult to master and duplicate, securing a technology leadership. These conditions are necessary to ensure sustainable PV technology production in Europe and the construction of a robust European PV industry able to beat international competition.
However, ultra-high-efficiency PV devices require manufacturing processes that are increasingly complex, which results in an increase in the related investment and fabrication costs. Given that the market still requires a reduction of the technology price, we are left with a paradox, and we must find ways to produce high-efficiency devices with competitive industrial processes.
The concept proposed by the HERCULES project is to develop innovative n-type monocrystalline c-Si device structures based on back-contact solar cells with alternative junction formation, as well as related structures including hybrid concepts (homo-heterojunction). These concepts are the most promising technologies to reach ultra-high efficiencies with industrially relevant processes. The HERCULES strategy is to transfer the developed processes to the industrial scale by considering all major cost drivers of the entire manufacturing process chain of modules.
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