Tag Archives: national renewable energy laboratory

energy supply - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2012

First Solar Sets World Record for CdTe Solar Cell Efficiency

Tempe-based First Solar, Inc. announced it has set a world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) solar cell conversion efficiency, achieving 20.4 percent conversion efficiency certified at the Newport Corporation’s Technology and Applications Center (TAC) PV Lab and confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The record-setting cell was constructed at the company’s Perrysburg, Ohio factory and Research & Development Center.

This certified result bests the previous record of 19.6 percent conversion efficiency set by GE Global Research in 2013. Last April, First Solar and GE announced a solar technology partnership in which First Solar acquired GE’s CdTe solar intellectual property and secured a collaborative research partnership with GE’s R&D team. The partnership was formed to accelerate innovation in PV technology and accelerate solar module performance at manufacturing scale.

“This record marks another achievement in our mission to unlock the industry-changing potential of CdTe PV,” said Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer. “We are demonstrating improvement in CdTe PV performance at a rate that dramatically outstrips the trajectory of conventional silicon technologies, which have already plateaued near their ultimate entitlements. The synergy realized in our partnership with GE also demonstrates the value of our consistent and strong investment in R&D. The advanced technologies and processes we developed for this record-setting cell are already being commercialized and will positively impact performance of our future production modules and power plants.”

First Solar’s new CdTe research cell conversion efficiency matches the research cell efficiency record of multicrystalline silicon, another technology used in the PV solar market.

First Solar has continued to transfer its success in the R&D lab into its commercial modules, increasing its average production module efficiency to 13.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, up 0.6 percent from 12.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. The company’s lead line was producing modules with 13.9 percent average efficiency at the end of 2013.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Science & Technology Facility, SmithGroup, Carbon Measurements

Carbon as the New Metric for Measuring Building Performance

The design of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Science & Technology Facility along with on-site generation of renewable energy and purchase of green power has yielded a carbon reduction of 95 percent or 6 lbs/sf/yr.

The stakes are high! There is an increased sense of urgency to address the problem of global climate change. As has been well-documented over the past few years, ever-rising greenhouse gas emissions have been attributed in large part to human activity. The situation was stated by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their Fourth Assessment Report issued in February 2007. In reality, emissions are accelerating at a much faster rate than even the IPCC has predicted over the last eight years.

As documented in the report, there is agreement among the scientific community that a 2o C (3.5o F) rise in temperature constitutes a tipping point where the damages of global warming will be irreversible. This equates to an atmospheric CO2 equivalent concentration of 450 parts per million (ppm). The current CO2 concentration level is around 386 ppm. CO2 represents greater than 75 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. If we add in all other sources, we may currently be reaching an equivalent CO2 concentration of 430 ppm. As you can see, there isn’t much room, especially considering the CO2 concentration curve is accelerating.

Building Industry
The building industry is a major contributor to the greenhouse gas inventory through both direct (project site) and indirect (source) emissions. Source emissions account for a majority of building sector impacts and are those that are generated elsewhere, mainly by fossil fuel-based power plants, as a consequence of our actions. The Architecture 2030 Challenge has indicated that buildings account for more than 48 percent of all energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions annually, and consume 76 percent of all electricity produced by power plants. Because we are responsible for creating the built environment, the building industry must take a leadership role in helping to solve this crisis.

New Carbon Economy
There are several options for how best to deal with climate change and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Because carbon dioxide represents a majority of the greenhouse gases, several schemes have been created — Carbon Cap and Trade, Carbon Tax, and other variations — to deal with that element. Cap and Trade is a market-driven system where a central authority sets a limit on emissions as well as a price. The cap total is divided into allowances or permits which are allocated to participating entities based on current emission levels. Every year, the cap and number of allowances is reduced, forcing participants to either cut their emissions or purchase unused permits to offset their pollution.

Proponents believe that these systems will provide a financial incentive for companies to reduce their emissions. Opponents feel that imposing a cost on carbon would translate into higher energy costs. The new administration is taking up this issue currently, but no matter which scheme is implemented, there is a clear sense of urgency if the U.S. — and the world — hopes to affect climate change.

New Direction for Measuring Building Performance
Building performance is often measured in terms of Energy Use Intensity (EUI) in kBTU’s per square foot annually, or Energy Cost Savings in dollars per square foot annually. Even though these metrics are important to evaluate, they do not easily translate to environmental impacts. If we are ever going to bring the discussion to the language of mitigation, we must define a different metric for measuring building performance. I suggest that the common metric should be in terms of carbon reduction per project in pounds (or tons) per square foot annually.

As we move into this new economy, organizations and companies will most likely be required to report their carbon emissions annually and to find ways of reducing their impacts. So why doesn’t the building industry jump on board and start informing building owners of how their buildings are mitigating climate change? Owners will soon demand this as part of their organization’s commitment. Climate change must be addressed in the design and construction of their facilities. Owners will also demand to know what the design and construction industry’s experience and expertise is in addressing climate change when hiring firms.

The stakes are high and we, in the building industry, must be the leaders in providing buildings that succeed in the new carbon economy.