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Photovoltaic Solar Cells

Solar panels to produce electricity are one of the most well-known alternative energy technologies. You’ve seen solar cells deployed on parking meters, the occasional retail store rooftop, and maybe a neighbor’s house. Part of what prevents solar photovoltaic systems from being more widespread is cost—solar panels require a big upfront installation investment, and in an era of cheap coal and natural gas, the competition with conventional electricity generation is intense.

Man on Roof Installing Solar Panels

Most commercial photovoltaic solar cells use a semiconductor material to absorb solar radiation and produce electricity. For many conventional photovoltaic semiconductors, issues such as manufacturing and installation costs, materials scarcity, and/or toxicity could limit their widespread adoption. The Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative is aimed at making solar energy technologies cost-competitive with other forms of energy by reducing costs by about 75% by 2020. Berkeley Lab researchers are exploring all aspects of photovoltaic solar, including radically new basic science approaches to the underlying conversion of sunlight into electricity.

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Solar Energy Materials Research Group

Solar Energy Materials Research Group

The Solar Energy Materials Research Group is developing novel materials that address the immediate need for sustainable, clean energy sources. They are currently investigating both Group III-nitride semiconductors as well as highly-mismatched alloys for a number of energy-generating applications.

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Electricity Markets and Policy: Renewable Energy

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory works collaboratively with the US Department of Energy, state and federal policymakers, electricity suppliers, the renewable energy industry, academics, and others to conduct public interest research on renewable energy markets, policies, costs, benefits, and performance. Our work in these core areas focuses on renewable power generation, with an emphasis on wind and solar power. Much of this work is crosscutting in nature, however, and is applicable to a range of renewable energy technologies.

View the Electricity Markets and Policy: Renewable Energy Group Page »

Renewable Electricity: Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conversion

Renewable Electricity: Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conversion

More than 30 years of experimentation was needed for the relatively simple thin-film silicon solar cell to reach its current efficiency of 24%. In order to develop next-generation solar cells based on new materials and nanoscience fast enough to reduce the global warming crisis, a different paradigm of research is essential. Exa­scale computing can change the way the research is done —both through a direct numerical material-by-design search and by enabling a better understanding of the fundamental processes in nanosystems that are critical for solar energy applications.

View the Renewable Electricity: Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conversion Page »