Quantum Solar Power Corp. recently reached a milestone in developing a new solar technology that it says will drastically reduce the cost per watt of solar and help it to achieve grid parity with coal-fired plants.
The company announced this week that it has developed a functional prototype of its new absorption layer that leaves out expensive rare Earth elements like Gallium and Tellurium. Those elements keep traditional solar photovoltaic and thin-film technologies from being scalable, Quantum spokesman Erik Cathcart said
“Quantum’s science team, led by our Chief Technology Officer Dr. Andras Pattantyus-Abraham, examined existing PV strategies,” Cathcart said, “and determined the way to advance photovoltaics was through a new kind of absorber and a more sophisticated method of pulling the charge from the absorber layer, which is what they have been working on for over two years now.”
The prototype has reached a performance threshold that makes it suitable for testing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.
The NREL research will verify Quantum’s credibility and lend the company validity in the solar marketplace. It will also provide proof of concept for potential manufacturing partners, Cathcart said.
“The NREL certification will be an important milestone to show the disruptiveness of the technology,” Quantum CEO Steven Pleging said. “(Next Generation) devices will lead the solar industry to a competitive position with all electricity generation technologies.”
Quantum does not plan to manufacture and market its technology itself. Instead, Cathcart said the company will look for module manufacturers that would incorporate Quantum’s technology into their products.
He said the company wasn’t prepared yet to release information about efficiency ratings. But Quantum’s calculations price the technology at about 40 cents per watt, which would equate to the 10 cents per kilowatt hour that coal power generation costs on the retail power market.
Testing at NREL is one of the biggest steps toward commercialization for solar products.
“There are too many variables to determine an exact date for commercialization at this point,” Cathcart said, “but our goal is to have a design that could be put into production in about three years from now.”