Cost reduction is a key issue for PV, as costs are still relatively high compared to those for other electricity generation technologies. RD&D efforts, together with market deployment policies, have been effective in helping reduce PV costs. Both grid-connected and stand-alone applications need better ancillary components. A variety of reliable components are available, but the efficiency, lifetime, and operation of some components can be further improved, especially for inverters and batteries.
Standardization and quality assurance are crucial, for components as well as for the entire system. Standards exist for testing PV modules, and work has been done on standards for PV systems. To give users and investors more confidence, however; there is a need for standards to be developed for all the main system components, as well as certification or qualifications for designers and installers.
As solar energy is intermittent, storage systems are needed for stand-alone solar systems. However, solar power generation may work well as part of a diversified power supply system. The system compatibility depends on the shape of the electricity load curve. In sunny regions with an electricity demand peak during summer days (often caused by air conditioning), the peak contribution of solar can be high.
Such conditions can be found in California and Japan. However, at higher latitudes with a winter morning peak, solar contribution to peak demand is negligible. This difference affects the need for backup capacity.
Until recent years, supplies of crystalline silicon were abundant. However, as production levels increase, demand from the PV industry versus world market supply of crystalline silicon is becoming a serious issue. In order to resolve this bottleneck, new feedstock production must be developed quickly. This will require significant investment by industry, which previously relied on silicon from the semi-conductor industry. Manufacturing approaches for solar cell technologies are diversifying and many varieties of materials are being investigated.
A number of technologies are in the commercial stage; many others are still in the pilot manufacturing or even laboratory phase. It is likely that different technologies will continue to co-exist for different applications for some time. It would be valuable to undertake an early assessment of production processes, industrial compatibility and costs, including an assessment of generic issues faced by thin-film manufacturing processes.
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