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Photovoltaic laboratory machine with one panel

Harnessing the infinite potential of the sun


Photovoltaics, i.e. the generation of electricity from sunlight, is considered one of the most popular forms of renewable energy and has gained further importance in recent years. The potential is huge - especially for buildings, in cities, in industry as well as in the energy infrastructure. And the technical possibilities are far from exhausted. Researchers at AIT, for example, are looking into the use of special solar cells that can collect radiation energy on both their front and back sides.

The technology that generates electricity from solar energy using solar cells is called photovoltaics (PV). It has developed in leaps and bounds in recent years. Production costs have fallen sharply, and global expansion has been much faster than even the most optimistic proponents had assumed.

Photovoltaics as an integral part of a sustainable energy infrastructure

Photovoltaics is showing great growth rates, but at the same time it is necessary to further increase yield and deployment in order to achieve climate and energy targets. This is because by 2030, renewable energy sources are to generate enough electricity in Austria to cover 100 percent of total national electricity consumption (on a national balance sheet basis). 

For this to succeed, solar energy must take over a significant share and the installed capacity must be increased from the current 1.25 gigawatts to at least 15 gigawatts. By 2050, this figure is set to double again to 30 gigawatts. Photovoltaics can already be used as standard in innovative energy concepts for single-family homes, larger residential buildings or even plus-energy neighborhoods in urban areas - and is thus also an integral part of a sustainable energy infrastructure. Research is faced with questions of yield optimization and the further development of PV modules.

Technology development for more yield

One way to increase yields is to use new module technologies such as "bifacial" PV modules. With conventional module technologies, light is only converted into electricity from the side facing the sun. Bifacial modules, on the other hand, can use direct and reflected sunlight from both the front and the back of the module and convert it into electricity. Thus, up to 20 percent more solar energy can be used at once with the same installed area.

The Center for Energy of the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is currently leading the European project "BI-FACE", which is concerned with this improved utilization. With bifacial solar modules, factors such as location, design, ground reflection and positioning must also be considered for optimal performance. To make the new modules attractive to businesses as well as homes, the project tested them in three different climates: subtropical (Cyprus), temperate (Austria) and maritime temperate (Netherlands). The team is also taking into account the aspect of standardization in its consideration and is developing innovative mounting and fastening structures.  

Research, such as that carried out at AIT, plays a decisive role on the way to the energy transition. In addition to many years of know-how, the AIT can also draw on excellently equipped laboratories. One focus here is on the quality assurance of PV modules and systems, including performance monitoring, yield forecasts and efficiency optimization.

[Translate to English:] Photovoltaikpanels am Dach vom AIT Gebäude in Wien

Test-Research, such as that carried out at AIT, plays a decisive role on the road to the energy transition.