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PV Energy for the 21st Century

28 March 2017

If we were to characterize the evolution of photovoltaic energy once we entered the 21st century

We would note the following tendencies:

1. A continuous improvement in the efficiency and performance of solar cells

In 2006 the use of polysilicon cells surpassed for the first time the rest of photovoltaic technologies. That same year, a new record is achieved by getting a solar cell with a 40% efficiency.

In 2012 Solar3D Inc. develops the first 3D photovoltaic cell: "World's first 3D solar cell is surprisingly efficient". 200% more efficient than a conventional one.

From December 2014 we collect this headline: "New world record for solar cell efficiency at 46% -French-German cooperation confirms competitive advantage of European photovoltaic industry".

2. The progressive reduction in production costs.

"The costs of photovoltaics fall 80% in the last five years" announces in 2014 the Energy Newspaper.

"The focus on low costs especially for Chinese solar module firms helped reduce prices by 75 percent over the last five years, which also boosted demand and reorganized the entire industry. But the resulting loss of profits has caused turbulence in Chinese companies as well as in other parts of the world."

3. The progressive incorporation of a large number of countries with implementation in their territories of parks of photovoltaic production.

To the list of 22 countries that exceed the threshold of 1 GW of accumulated PV power by 2015, another 14 are added, which do not exceed this threshold.

  FTV Instalada 2015 MW FTV Acumulada 2015 MW
1. Chile 446 848
2. Honduras 389 389
3. Argelia 270 300
4. Turquía 208 266
5. Israel 200 881
6. Dinamarca 183 789
7. Austria 150 937
8. Filipinas 122 155
9. México 103 282
10. Portugal 63 454
11. Malasia 63 231
12. Suecia 51 130
13. Finlandia 5 20
14. Noruega 2 15

4. The exponential growth of the world production of photovoltaic energy in the last century would be another of the most characterized trends:

In the chart above, it is easy to see that it has been during the few years that have passed since the 21st century when the true boom of this photovoltaic industry has occurred.

5. One last feature of this energy technology (PV) is recorded by its continuous use in the aerospace adventure.

Thus, photovoltaic technology ended up being hegemonic in the supply of electrical energy for various space devices, which in the form of satellites, probes, telescopes or other equipment or vehicles, orbit the solar system.

® The Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, launched in 1996 for Mars, had two 3.5 x 1.9 m solar panels on opposite sides of the spacecraft, providing 980 W of power.

® the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter probe, launched in August 2005, carried 2 solar panels with a total area of ​​10 meters. Opportunity is an active robot on the planet Mars since 2004. Its twin, Spirit, had landed on the red planet three weeks earlier. Both are part of NASA's 'Mars Exploration Program'.

® For the generation of electricity from the Hubble Space Telescope, (in orbit around the Earth since 1990, with 2021 deactivation date planned), two solar panels are used to power the cameras, the motors that orient and stabilize the HST telescope, Equipment refrigeration instruments and telescope electronics. Likewise, the HST (reflector-type telescope whose cost amounted in 1990 to 2.8 billion dollars) has rechargeable batteries from the solar panels that allow it to use stored electricity when the Earth eclipses the Sun or when the orientation of The solar panels is not adequate.

® The Rosetta spacecraft, launched in 2004 in orbit towards the planet Jupiter -5.25 UA-, also had solar panels.

® The Juno spacecraft (launched in 2011 to Jupiter in 2016) uses photovoltaic panels instead of a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, traditionally used in space missions outside the Solar System. The power was supplied by two 55 Ah lithium ion batteries (Ampere hours) powered by photovoltaic solar energy. This probe is part of NASA's New Frontiers space program. The mission has a total duration of six years.

® The potential of photovoltaics is currently being studied to equip spacecraft that orbit beyond Jupiter.
Dawn is a space probe launched by NASA in 2007, which aims to examine the asteroid Vesta between 2011 and 2012 and the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015.
Vesta and Ceres are in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The ship is powered by photovoltaic solar energy. Two 2.3 x 8.3 solar panels with InGaP / InGaAs / Ge triple junction cells provide 10,000 W at a distance of 150 million kilometers (1 AU) and 1000 W at the end of their life at a distance Of 450 million kilometers (3 AU).

In short: The future of energy necessarily passes for renewable energy and more specifically for photovoltaic solar. Being the latter a clean and sustainable energy is the best proposal offered, especially by a country like Spain, whose territory can take advantage of its high rate of solar radiation for most of the year.

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