Over the decades of PV development, a key barrier has been the cost of photovoltaics. Yet in the last few years, photovoltaics has changed from one of the more expensive photovoltaic technologies to recent power purchasing agreements as low below $0.03/kWh, photovoltaics has rapidly evolved into the lowest cost electricity generating technology. The possibility of rapid increases in PV generation has intensified debate over the impact of higher PV penetration rates on conventional grid electricity. However, California has more than 20% of its electricity from photovoltaics, demonstrating that the many solutions to dealing with variable generation on the grid are effective at enabling high penetration rates. The paper will examine approaches to mitigating the negative impacts of photovoltaics on the grid, showing that there is a range of tools to choose from, and the advances in areas intersecting with PV technology change the
A central question then arises what the critical remaining challenges are in photovoltaics. For example, one set of challenges relates to improving more outcomes from the electricity grid that generation-related reliability. For example, the power outages from weather / extreme events are increasing, and exceed those from other outage events. While improving generation reliability has little effect on such events, moving towards distributed generation can have a substantial impact. This then suggests, that barriers relate to inverters which can operate independent of the grid as well as grid-connected. It also has strong impacts on solar cell technology, such that generation of a substantial component of the load becomes desirable, placing a greater focus on higher efficiency. The inclusion of a battery also mitigates “duck curve.” Other benefits of increased and higher efficiency. Overall, examination of the advantages and drivers for photovoltaics show that innovation in photovoltaic technology is critical to achieve the benefits of photovoltaics.
Having demonstrated the importance and value of improved functionality and higher efficiency for photovoltaics to realize its benefits to the electrical grid, the final component of the paper examines approaches to high efficiency. Conventional technologies have focused on either flat plate or high concentration photovoltaics. However, in additional to these, a hybrid between them, focusing on tandems in lower cost commercial structures is emerging as an approach to overcome the efficiency and performance limitations of conventional structures. The paper gives an overview of technology paths and approaches to reach >35% for photovoltaic systems while increasing functionality and reducing costs.