As focus continues to shift toward the energy transition, with solar power leading the way, Europe is looking to re-establish its footing in the photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing industry. Up to now, the EU has had to cut back on the production of PV modules because of stiff competition from the global market. Now, within the framework of the Horizon 2020 program and under the coordination of Imec, a group of nine EU research institutes and eight industrial partners are teaming up to increase Europe’s share of the market through the Highlite project. The goal: produce silicon PV modules with higher performance, lower cost and better environmental profiles to improve the competitiveness of the EU PV manufacturing industry by demonstrating new production solutions on pilot-line level.
Producing cost-effective crystalline silicon modules, with a lower carbon footprint, enhanced durability and improved recyclability, requires innovative manufacturing solutions across the entire production chain. To achieve this, the European Commission has devoted 12.9 million euros to fund the three-year project, which focuses on manufacturing ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells (down to 100 μm or about half of the current standard thickness). To improve performance and durability, the cells are being designed with so-called passivating contacts and cutting-edge re-passivation techniques. Additionally, industrial tools will be developed to assemble these cut-cells into high-efficiency modules tailored for various applications, especially for integration into buildings, rooftops or vehicles.
“Taking profit of the unique strength of each partner and the available expertise in Europe in the field of crystalline silicon devices with passivating contacts, we can develop production solutions with higher performance, lower cost and better environmental profiles than those currently on the market,” says Loic Tous, project coordinator of Highlite and silicon PV team leader at Imec/Energyville. “By demonstrating on pilot-line level how the next generation silicon PV modules can be manufactured, the project aims at significantly improving the competitiveness of the European PV industry.”