Scientists at Graphene Flagship are working to assist in meeting the European Union's sustainable goals. Research on sustainable graphene-perovskite (G-PE) photovoltaics (PVs) could lead to more efficient renewable sources of energy.
A Graphene Flagship's Spearhead Project, the Solar Farm project, has created the world's first graphene-enabled solar farm. The installation of the solar farm was successfully completed on the island of Crete, Greece.
Graphene for sustainable applications has long been a research priority for the Graphene Flagship, one of the most significant research initiatives in Europe involving researchers from many EU nations and The U.K.
The dedicated Spearhead Project, the Solar Farm initiative, focuses on the industrialization and real-life deployment of solar energy harvesting technologies. The solar cells implemented in the energy sector help the EU efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Graphene-enabled solar cells reduce the cost of photovoltaic energy below €20/MWh - cheaper than fossil fuels.
Graphene solar farm in Greece
The solar farm is a Graphene Flagship collaboration with the University of Rome Tor Vergata, the Hellenic Mediterranean University, the University of Cambridge, the Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia, and the GreatCell Solar.
It all started in 2019, when Graphene Flagship Italian partners, the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), the University of Rome Tor Vergata, and spin-off BeDimensional collaborated to produce large-area graphene-enriched perovskite solar cells, achieving excellent power conversion efficiencies of 15.3 percent based on active areas of 82cm2.
"We have set ambitious targets for the solar farm project," explained Aldo di Carlo, Spearhead Leader for Energy Generation at the Graphene Flagship. "During the project, we paved the way towards the future exploitation of graphene perovskite in tandem with solar cells, showing power conversion efficiencies far beyond present records. Alongside the creation of the world's first graphene-enabled solar farm at the premises of the Hellenic Mediterranean University of Crete, the project aims to reduce the levelized cost of energy below €20/MWh."
The solar farm project is expected to surpass this figure with new solar cell configurations by joining forces with Graphene Flagship industry-led GRAPES Spearhead Project, which includes partner companies such as GreatCell Solar and Siemens. GRAPES is set to make cost-effective, stable graphene-enabled perovskite panels.
Perovskite PVs provide a huge promise being a very low-cost technology, highly efficient, easy to manufacture, with a decreased CapEx with a potential to hit an LCOE below €0.03/kWh. PV applications include building, infrastructure, automotive, and consumer electronics.
The use of GRMs in perovskite solar panels reduces their levelized cost of electricity by increasing the power conversion efficiency improving the module lifetime.
Assembling and testing the graphene-enabled perovskite solar farm in Crete
According to Dr. Emmanuel Kymakis, Energy Generation WP Leader, Greece, the solar panels were transported from Italy to Crete where they were assembled into the solar farm.
During the conference Graphene for . . . Research, Innovation, Collaboration, Kymakis explained that the solar farm consists of the mounted Graphene-Perovskite PV panels developed in Italy, the necessary power electronic components such as MPPT and inverter, the data acquisition electrical connections, and the weather station.
The Italian Institute of Technology Graphene Labs in Italy and the University of Cambridge in England fabricated 360 modules, and the solar farm was then assembled in Heraklion, Crete. The solar farm is currently under full operation. Because of its geographical location, Crete is a good place to evaluate the technology, says Kymakis.
After 45 months in operation, tested in different weather conditions to evaluate how it affects the stability of the solar farm, the preliminary results show the following:
The continuous monitoring of the solar farm performance provides a better understanding of single reliability issues
The direct correlation of the environmental conditions with the G-PE PV panels outdoors performance provide unique information on the commercialization potential of this technology
The G-PE panels were benchmarked against conventional PV technologies (Si, CdTe, CGIS) revealing that G-PE PVs are competitive in terms of output power and PCE, while exhibiting superior performance at high temperature conditions.
These key findings under real operating conditions put the GRMs enabled PVs technology closer to commercialization
Dr. Emmanuel Kymakis ended his presentation with the following conclusions:
Graphene and related materials are very effective for interface engineering in Perovskite Solar Cells and modules
The highest performing perovskite panel enabled by GRMs has been demonstrated by the Graphene Flagship Consortium
The world’s first GRMs enabled perovskite solar farm was designed and constructed, and is currently under operation, benchmarking Graphene-Perovskite panel performance against commercial technologies
Graphene-Perovskite panels technology is expected to significantly decrease the manufacturing cost of energy production toward $0.03/kWh
The step that follows is to start manufacturing graphene-perovskite solar cells and modules for commercial use of the solar panels.