Circular integrated high-efficiency solar panels

A national research, innovation and industrial development plan

Large-scale implementation of photovoltaics

Our energy supply is changing dramatically and quickly, and in this transition, ecological necessity meets economic opportunity. The transition to renewable energy sources is necessary to evolve into sustainable economies and mitigate climate change. It also requires and creates vast opportunities for technological innovation and business creation – which this Nationaal Groeifonds proposal intends to grasp. Electricity from sunlight (photovoltaics, PV) will play a major role in the energy transition and is poised to grow worldwide to the ‘terawatt’ scale. In the Netherlands, the installed capacity is set to grow from 18 GWp today to 100-250 GWp in 2050.
Hence, PV is a crucial ‘industry of the future’. This Groeifonds proposal aims to create the necessary innovative PV technologies and industrial basis in the Netherlands to capture economic value of billions of euros for decades to come. In addition, this ‘local manufacturing’, using short lines from supply to markets, will generate multiple environmental benefits and reinforce strategic autonomy in our energy supply. On all these points, the proposal is fully aligned with the currently accelerating momentum towards new industrial public policies on EU level. 

Innovation program

The program targets to develop and industrialize three innovative PV technologies selected for their potential to be competitive in their respective markets alongside the incumbent mainstream PV: high-efficiency silicon heterojunction ‘HJT’ cells, flexible perovskite foils, and custom-integrated PV products for buildings and automotive. In each of the corresponding program lines, we have organized a comprehensive innovation channel connecting research, technology and product development, industrialization and ramp-up to scale. We will implement a ‘design-for-circularity’ principle in each of our technologies and products, to have the built-in potential for recycling and minimizing the use of critical materials. 

Reaching the scale required for a competitive new PV industry requires an initial investment that the international market fails to provide. The National Growth Fund can solve this market failure by signaling strong public support and attracting private investors into the PV business ventures. The fruits of the investment will be a new and dynamic PV ecosystem in the Netherlands, which in turn will fuel further PV innovations in years to come. 

Plan of activities and results  

The activities are organized in three program lines corresponding to the selected technologies.

In Program Line 1 we will initiate innovative industrial manufacturing of state-of-the-art silicon heterojunction ‘HJT’ solar cells with an efficiency starting at 25%. We first build a 300 MWp/yr pilot production line in 2024 and scale it up to 3 GWp/yr full capacity by 2026. Parallel academic research will help increase cell efficiency to 26.5%, and reduce cost and use of critical materials. Once operational, the HJT gigafactory will be replicated at other locations in the Netherlands and Europe to reach a total manufacturing capacity of 18 GWp/yr by 2031 – 20-25% of the yearly European PV installation needs in utility and rooftop markets. 

In the Program Line 2 we will develop unique roll-to-roll manufacturing technology for perovskite-PV foils. These lightweight foils target applications where conventional silicon solar panels cannot be used because they are too heavy or not flexible. We will bring the perovskite foil to 20% efficiency using production-compatible technology. This will be transferred to a 300 MWp/yr pilot production line to be built in 2028, followed by a full-scale 1 GWp/yr production facility in 2031.

Exasun products

In Program Line 3 we will develop lightweight PV products that can be integrated into buildings or vehicles. These are alternative PV markets with a strong growth potential as they unlock newly accessible surfaces for installation of PV. We will build a pilot production line followed by several manufacturing lines with a total capacity of 3.4 GWp/yr. In parallel, we will develop mass customization techniques to run tailored small-scale PV products on a flexible production line, expanding the application potential of PV even further.

Finally, we will combine the results of the program lines into a novel “tandem” PV technology with a very high efficiency surpassing 30%. We will also initiate the industrialization of this tandem solar panel and foil technology. 

In parallel we will carry out a research an innovation program at the academic partners through the national SolarLab consortium.

  • Silicon heterojunction solar cells
    • New production techniques and big data
    • Circular materials
  • Perovskite solar foils
    • Improving efficiency
    • Improving stability
    • Innovative materials and processing
  • Integrated PV, Si/perovskite tandem solar cells
    • Stability, circularity, and integration
    • Tandem solar cells

    The SolarNL program was written with contributions from the 11 participating organisations. See the proposal, page 53, for a full list of contributors and advisors.