Dr Maarten Wijdekop
- Solar Energy
The “IconIQ” solar module, based on a technology developed by TNO (NL) and ISC Konstanz (GER), has been revealed by Dutch module producer Energyra. The solar panel entails a unique combination of two European technologies, which will also be produced in the EU. At Energyra’s factory in Zaandam, the Netherlands, a first prototype was presented to Gaëtan Masson, co-chairman of the European Solar Manufacturing Council (ESMC).
These are the first steps of the IconIQ-Greenfab consortium, which is aiming to establish a high-end PV manufacturing activity in Europe. Energyra, ISC Konstanz and TNO play a leading role in this consortium, focusing on combining proven technologies into a high-quality mass product. This aligns very well with the objectives of ESMC, which represents all the stakeholders in the European PV manufacturing industry.
The solar cells in the IconIQ module that drive its high performance are based on the ‘ZEBRA’ IBC (Interdigated Back Contact) technology developed by ISC Konstanz, which is the lowest cost IBC technology reaching efficiencies up to 24% in production. The current technology reaches voltages above 700mV without the need of passivating contacts.
The IconIQ module design is based on back-contact interconnection, an industrially proven concept that was developed in the Netherlands by ECN (now part of TNO). Back-contact modules can realise superior power outputs because of their low cell-to-module loss factor, their superior robustness against thermo-mechanical stresses and their inherent capacity to dissipate heat, which allows them to ‘run cooler’ than conventional tab-string modules. Their form-factor is more flexible than that of conventional modules, which makes back-contact modules easier to integrate, and facilitates desirable aesthetic designs.
To reduce its reliance on Asian imports, it is critical that the EU starts producing significant volumes of PV modules to address the growing demand of its home market, and allow European businesses to engage in the supply chains. The IconIQ-Greenfab consortium estimates that an annual production volume of 5GW would bring the cost of manufacturing down to a level at which it can compete with Asian imports. An additional benefit is that a fully integrated EU supply chain, combined with regional production of PV modules, will significantly lower the carbon footprint of the PV modules, because long-distance transportation routes of some of the raw materials from Europe to China, and of PV modules back to Europe, are avoided.
Establishing production capability of 5GW of PV modules pa in the EU will create an estimated 3000 new direct jobs in the PV industry, and 15.000 jobs in total.
Gaëtan Masson, ESMC co-chair: This unique solar panel by Energyra and its partners offers a massive opportunity to the EU’s advanced manufacturing industry and its suppliers. It will also lessen the dependence of the EU on Asian imports, which has suffered significantly in the COVID crisis.
Daniël Kuijk, Energyra Europe: The IconIQ solar panel combines two high-quality technologies, and offers many advantages, such as lead-free, solder-free contacting and greatly improved robustness. The latter translates into an extraordinary lifetime of the IconIQ solar panel. Our panel is not only lead-free, but also free of fluorine and PFAS, which is not the case for mainstream solar panels. To achieve something like this, you need the entire value chain. IconIQ proves that we really can do that in Europe.
Radovan Kopecek, ISC Konstanz: Back-contact technology could become main stream for roof top, building integration as well as for product integration, as there are several advantages that clearly overcompensate the past draw-backs. One of the major draw-backs has been the higher cost of IBC technology, which we have addressed now with our highly efficient, low cost ZEBRA cell technology. Let´s start high volume PV production in EU with combining the best technologies of EU´s leading institutes in the future.
Maarten Wijdekop, TNO Energy Transition: It’s fantastic to see that the back-contact module technology that has been developed by my colleagues at TNO is implemented in this high quality solar panel. We have worked hard over the past 15 years to innovate and advance PV technologies, which are now being validated by the higher segments in the market. This votes for a sunny future of the European PV industry.
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