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Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SOLAR-ERA.NET Cofund (SOLAR-ERA.NET Cofund)

Reporting period: 2017-11-01 to 2022-04-30

SOLAR-ERA.NET Cofund brought together 15 national organisations owning and / or managing major research and innovation programmes throughout Europe. SOLAR-ERA.NET Cofund's focus was on solar power technologies covering both photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) / solar thermal electricity prioritised according to the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan.

Reducing technology cost and advancing manufacturing technologies, applications and grid / system integration are essential to increasing the deployment of solar power technologies as crucial element of the Low Carbon Energy strategy set out in the Energy Package and thereby achieving the ambitious climate targets and contributing to sustainable, secure, cost-efficient energy supply and to strengthening the solar and related industry sectors in Europe.

Main activities and objectives were:
•To carry out one joint transnational call ;
•To pool resources and to provide critical mass for transnational research and innovation projects ;
•To address topics and subjects of highest priority and European added value ;
•To mobilise more than 10 MEUR of public funding (national and EC funding), and, together with the resources provided by the private industry sector, a total of more than 15 MEUR ;
•To select and fund transnational projects where major progress can be achieved in technology development for subsequently successful commercialisation;
•To maintain and enhance coordination, coherence and networking between national programmes and thereby
•To contribute to support the implementation and achieve the objectives of the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) plan, Energy Union package and ambitious climate targets.
According to its key mission, SOLAR-ERA.NET Cofund carried out a joint call, based on the priority topics defined in the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) plan and related Implementation Plans for photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) / solar thermal electricity (STE), namely:
A) Innovative and low-cost PV manufacturing issues
B) Advanced PV products and applications
C) PV system integration
D) CSP cost reduction and system integration

A total of 16 highly innovative transnational projects could be supported.

The topic “Innovative and low-cost PV manufacturing issues” focused on materials and processes aimed at reducing the manufacturing costs and LCOE for all PV technologies. Innovative active and functional materials were tested in combination with pioneer and alternative fabrication techniques in order to achieve low-cost and high throughput industrially scalable technologies. In general, materials and processing techniques with low maturity (TRL4) tested in lab conditions at the beginning of the projects were taken to higher TRL6 through the successful development achieved within the duration of the project. The five projects supported were : Pearl, NEXT-FOIL, HEAVENLY, ENMESH and RHINO.

The topic “Advanced PV products and applications” focused on innovative approaches applied to cell and modules in order to address and fulfil different market specifications and integrate them into appealing applications from the aesthetic and functional point of view. In general, initial TRL belong to functional cells that are later modified according to specifications to reach higher TRLs corresponding with the targeted application. The six projects supported were: BI-FACE, CEFRABID, PanelPV, MasterPV, Cover Power and NELL.

The topic “PV system integration” focused on potential developments made on different components of the PV system apart from the conversion panel in order to maximize the overall performance of the whole PV system. New concepts or approaches with low initial TRLs at device level, were then integrated within the project at higher levels, reaching higher TRLs in operating systems. The four projects supported were : 1500-SiC, Erigeneia, PVTool and Prognosis.

The topic “CSP cost reduction and system integration” focused on the aspects of concentrated solar power for different applications. Concepts with low TRL initially demonstrated in lab conditions are integrated into functional systems resulting in higher TRL. One project was supported : HyConSys.

A large variety of communication and dissemination activities was carried out, from promoting the joint call to disseminating results. Two key dissemination activities / events were : Smart Solar Power in Europe co-organised with ERA-Net Smart Energy Systems (ERA-Net SES) gathering some 80 stakeholders and the "Exchange of Experiences" webinar with the presentation of all 16 research and innovation projects funded under the umbrella of SOLAR-ERA.NET.
SOLAR-ERA.NET Cofund funded R&I projects covering the whole value chain of photovoltaic energy generation; from the initial point of view of improving the quality of starting supporting wafers and advanced and novel high throughput manufacturing processes to the integration of PV power, installation and ancillary services like inverters or storage solutions that all together help the final deployment of solar photovoltaic energy needed to decrease GHG emission and reach social and industrial decarbonization.

Remarkably large efforts have been dedicated to the development of new materials, silicon based and other than silicon technologies like conductive transparent inks, advanced foils, bifacial devices, encapsulants, insulators, CIGS, organic semiconductors and perovskites, oxide anodes and cathodes that need to work together in a synergic combination to fully exploit the benefit of solar power and decrease the dependence on fossil fuels.

The overall impact of the funded projects has been tremendously positive. The power conversion efficiency of all the different kind of devices has always considerably progressed and achieved higher values clearly above the level at project started, overcoming in many cases 25%, and reaching 36% for concentrating technologies. In addition to more efficient devices and panels, SOLAR-ERA.NET Cofund has contributed to the cost reduction of PV electricity production for existing technologies, working first at materials and processes level, and to reach very competitive LCOEs focusing also on the whole technical chain of a PV plant.

In the case of less developed technologies, SOLAR-ERA.NET Cofund projects have in general risen TRL from lab demonstration to system prototype demonstrations in operational environments, bringing emerging technologies to the gates of industrialization and commercialization, and opening a new world of possibilities to make any suitable surface solar active and convert it into a power generator. Continued and new collaborative schemes are needed in order to address the challenges and grasp the huge opportunities related to develop and deploy a clean, renewable and decarbonised electricity / energy system thanks solar power technologies.

In terms of networking of national and regional research and innovation programmes, SOLAR-ERA.NET Cofund maintained and further enhanced coordination, coherence and networking between national programmes, also through successive and successful Cofund joint calls, providing momentum to contribute to support the implementation and achieve the objectives of the SET plan, Energy Union package and ambitious climate targets.