Numerical modeling of uncertainty and variability in the technology, manufacturing, and economics of crystalline silicon photovoltaics
Ristow, Alan Hugo
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Electricity generated from photovoltaics (PV) promises to satisfy the world's ever-growing thirst for energy without significant pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. At present, however, PV is several times too expensive to compete economically with conventional sources of electricity delivered via the power grid. To ensure long-term success, must achieve cost parity with electricity generated by conventional sources of electricity. This requires detailed understanding of the relationship between technology and economics as it pertains to PV devices and systems. The research tasks of this thesis focus on developing and using four types of models in concert to develop a complete picture of how solar cell technology and design choices affect the quantity and cost of energy produced by PV systems. It is shown in this thesis that high-efficiency solar cells can leverage balance-of-systems (BOS) costs to gain an economic advantage over solar cells with low efficiencies. This advantage is quantified and dubbed the "efficiency premium." Solar cell device models are linked to models of manufacturing cost and PV system performance to estimate both PV system cost and performance. These, in turn, are linked to a model of levelized electricity cost to estimate the per-kilowatt-hour cost of electricity produced by the PV system. A numerical PV module manufacturing cost model is developed to facilitate this analysis. The models and methods developed in this thesis are used to propose a roadmap to high-efficiency multicrystalline silicon PV modules that achieve cost parity with electricity from the grid. The impact of PV system failures on the cost of electricity is also investigated; from this, a methodology is proposed for improving the reliability of PV inverters.