This Bill Gates-backed technology could be the future of solar power

The tech consists of perovskite panels.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Illustration of a modern perovskite high performance solar cell module.jpg
Illustration of a modern perovskite high performance solar cell module.


A company backed by Bill Gates is aiming to commercialize perovskite panels in order to make solar energy extremely viable. CubicPV, based in Massachusetts and Texas, is supported by Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

The firm is currently engineering new solar panels consisting of a bottom silicon layer and a top perovskite layer resulting in an efficiency of 30 percent. 

This is according to a report by CNBC published on Saturday.

CubicPV CEO Frank van Mierlo told the news outlet the company’s perovskite chemistry and its low-cost manufacturing method for the silicon layer mean the firm's products make economical sense.

And people are starting to take notice. Just last month, the Department of Energy revealed that CubicPV will be the lead industry participant in a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology research center.

Together, these organizations will harness automation and artificial intelligence to significantly improve the production and development of tandem panels. 

“Tandem extracts more power from the sun, making every solar installation more powerful and accelerating the world’s ability to curb the worst impacts of climate change,” told CNBC Van Mierlo.

“We believe that in the next decade, the entire industry will switch to tandem.”

CubicPV is also in the process of looking for a location to build a new 10GW silicon wafer plant in the United States.

Challenges ahead

But all is not rosy yet! Perovskites still face many hurdles in terms of cost and durability. 

Lead halide perovskites are winning the race to be the best performing so far but researchers are still trying to formulate other compositions to avoid lead toxicity.

Martin Green, who heads the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics, told CNBC that silicon-based tandem cells are likely to be the next big development in solar technology even though they currently do not work well enough outside the lab.

“The big question is whether perovskite/silicon tandem cells will ever have the stability required to be commercially viable,” told CNBC Green.

“Although progress has been made since the first perovskite cells were reported, the only published field data for such tandem cells with competitive efficiency suggest they would only survive a few months outdoors even when carefully encapsulated.”

Will CubicPV be able to bypass this challenge and produce the tech the nation so desperately needs to make solar more viable and productive? Only time will tell.

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