At Energy Forum, US Offers Perovskite Manufacturing To India

At the IHS Cera Week, which concluded on October 28, among the more interesting conversations, and ‘offers’ for India, was the one from US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, when he offered a joint effort with the US to develop cheaper solar cells and modules. For India, which has pushed for a huge ramp up in domestic production, the offer, while interesting will probably not meet its immediate needs, since perovskite cells, where Mr Brouillette offered cooperation, are still not considered close to a mass production model.

Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) have been the focus of research and are widely considered to be the future, replacing silicon cells with a more efficient, and versatile solar cell. Perovskites have shown tremendous promise in a range of other technologies, including solid-state lighting, advanced radiation detection, dynamic sensing and actuation, photo-catalysis, and quantum information science. Beyond the US, many other research labs and even manufacturers have been investing in the production of solar cells using the material, as the race heats up for the next stage of solar innovation and expansion. India itself, with a 100GW target for 2022, has a longer term target of over 300GW to 2030, when it hopes to have over 450GW of renewable energy capacity.

Besides the US, research in Germany, Switzerland and of course, China has also been taking the mass adoption of perovskites in the next generation of solar equipment ahead, but most estimates peg a possible start data post 2022. China of course, which is the global leader in solar equipment production, is the dominant supplier to India too, a key reason for the search for alternatives, especially domestic production. It is a Chinese firm, Microquanta, however, that claims to be the closest to mass production of perovskite  solar cells, for now.

The NREL, or the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the premier US government body for research into RE, has also been working hard to bring together multiple stakeholders to speed up research and build a market model for perovskite at the earliest. The body has regularly made it clear that it sees perovskites as a game changer in the solar field, and perhaps, also an opportunity to claw back some of the huge gains China made at the expense of western manufacturers, when it went all in for solar manufacturing.

For many of the Indian firms and manufacturers, that have announced expansion plans, it does loo like a tough choice to make, as thy seek to fill in the immediate need for domestic production, with the risk of having an outdated technology in 5-7 years time, an issue the domestic market, which is heavily polycrystalline focused, already grapples with. For these firms, which are only now making a decisive shift to Mono-Perc and possibly Bifacials, a big perovskite driven shift a few years from now is an added business risk for now.

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