Identifying Research Priorities and assessment needs for the case of Solar Photovoltaics (PV)


Solar PV is a technology which has experienced exponential growth and has significant potential to aid the transition towards a low-carbon energy system. However, increased shares of solar energy, have revealed some challenges that need to be dealt with in order for the technology to maintain its exponential growth. These challenges include intermittency issues due to the resilience of Solar PV operation on weather conditions, current business models’ inadequacy to incorporate new actors entering the market, energy efficiency and standardization procedures, and recycling procedures and obligations determination.

In the framework of the CARISMA Deliverable 4.1 “Report on identifying research needs for climate change mitigation technology options”, our research collects and synthesizes specific research priorities to support the further deployment of Solar PV. Our work commenced with the review of position papers from the European technology association for Solar PV, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), and an interview with their representative to report on expressed market knowledge gaps and concerns. With their viewpoints as basis, we continued with the review of a large number of scientific publications, to connect these viewpoints with inquiries expressed by the academic community. The results of this heuristic quest highlighted specific research priorities which are outlined in Table 1 below. The latter aims to support current knowledge and provide an overview of the needs for further research, analysis of policy implications and technical issues related to the development and further deployment of Solar PV. Consequently, our directions for further research and demonstration actions can be taken up by academic institutions and researchers, as well as from relevant industry associations and policymakers to enhance the development and deployment of Solar PV.

Table 1.  Research Priorities for the case of Solar PV according to the technology association's perspective

Research Priority (RP)

Why?

RP1: New support mechanisms and cost accounting methods

Need to support the phase out of the Feed-in-Tariff price regulation by balancing the costs incurred by state support schemes, while ensuring long-term return of investment maintaining PV installation attractive to producers/prosumers.

RP2: The specificities of variable energy generating technologies

For the exploitation of the services that VAR RES technologies can offer to the grid and the reduction of the interferences they introduce.

RP3: Aggregation of PV systems (especially smaller size systems) and the use of this portfolio for providing services

Need to reduce the transaction costs that burden stand-alone PV market-access. Also for the determination of the balancing effects that digitalization (services and devices) can offer, in view of the intermittent operation of PV technologies.

RP4: New market and business models promoting flexibility, synergies with storage technologies/demand response, e-mobility, etc

Concerns have been raised about the viability of the current business model. Policymakers and planners could be aided in effectively integrating distributed PV generators and prosumers in the electricity market, if relevant research is promoted.

RP5: The impacts of curtailment (PV and other RES)

There is a need for the determination of the optimal trade-off between the costs entailing the producer (considering also compensation schemes) and the costs for grid reinforcement.

RP6: Synergies with the heating/cooling sector (technical and economic)

To exploit the potential and benefits of solar assisted heating/cooling applications stand-alone and combined with PV systems. There is a need to benchmark these systems with electric-mechanical ones and also increase their efficiency.

RP7: Re-use of PV module material in the framework of a circular economy

Since the amount of installed PV system is rapidly growing, the safe disposal of modules is crucial in mitigating their environmental footprint.

RP8: Improving energy efficiency (of a PV system) also considering PV and storage

Improving the efficiency of PV will lead in shorter return of investment periods, will increase the system’s lifetime, and will also reduce the need for module recycling.

RP9: Quality criteria and standardization for product development and testing

To ensure high PV quality and operational efficiency.

The details of our findings on research needs is summarized below according to the four key themes of the Technology Framework under Article 10, paragraph 4, of the Paris Agreement: 

(1) Innovation: Innovation-related research priorities concern the development, demonstration and diffusion of novel PV technologies. From the technological viewpoint further research is required on the materials selection, with aim to reduce the required material for production while achieving higher operational efficiencies and lower production costs. Furthermore, the potential synergies of PV systems with Demand Response, Energy Management Systems, Electric Vehicles and storage technologies need to be further explored. Advancements should also take place for the Information and Communication Technologies which would enable the control of bidirectional power flows. Alongside, the algorithmic innovation in meteorological forecasting tools, which would enable more accurate weather forecasting, should also be promoted. Finally, the need for knowledge and technology exchange between developed and developing countries for technology dissemination is also highlighted in the academic literature.

(2) Implementation: The implementation theme is related to research priorities concerning the enhancement of PV assessment methodologies, aiming to determine the context specific appropriateness of PV modules and the facilitation of National Technology Action Plans implementation. Indicatively, Life Cycle Assessments should be further developed, so that they account for global scale challenges, geographical differentiations and future scenario modelling. Furthermore, there is a need for life-cycle assessment methodologies to turn their focus on Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) standards and should also consider the recycling stage of PV components (e.g. inverters and cables). The recycling of solar assisted heating/cooling devices should also be accounted for to better reflect the environmental footprint of a solar-powered system. Research is also required in optimizing cell manufacturing and wafer handling processes which would reduce the productions defects, leading in further efficiency increase and production cost decrease. Finally, the need for lifetime extension of modules while keeping efficiencies high, is highly correlated with the research need for quality testing throughout the whole value chain. 

 (3) Enabling environment and capacity building: In terms of enabling market rules, a common priority highlighted relates to the energy market regulations that need to be modified to account for the intermittent operation of RES. Furthermore, the development of monitoring systems to track the operation of PV systems are necessary so that visual inspections and O&M costs are decreased. Data acquisition mechanisms development would also provide significant insight on the effect of power curtailment for PV. The need for capacity building is not explicitly mentioned in the scientific literature, however, research and actions for further skills training, planning and implementation is highlighted.

 (4) Collaboration and Stakeholder Engagement: Open and fair discussions among stakeholders to elaborate on key subjects, such as the national cost-benefit ratios and the compensation rules for the PV owner after curtailment enforcement, aiming to reduce the need for costly grid expansion, should be facilitated. Discussions should also focus on the standardization practices for quality assurance of PV systems, ranging from production to operation. Finally, transnational cooperation among stakeholders is also cited to broaden a more sustainable diffusion of RES technologies in general.

 


Niki-Artemis Spyridaki
University of Piraeus Research Center (UPRC)
email: nartemis@unipi.gr

 

 
Serafeim Michas
University of Piraeus Research Center (UPRC)
email: michas@unipi.gr


 

Uploaded on 08/11/2017

* The viewpoints expressed are those of the authors.

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