Australian engineers break solar cell efficiency record
Engineers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney have built photovoltaic cells capable of harvesting almost 35 percent of the sun’s energy – shattering the previous world record of 24 percent.
At only 28-square centimetres, the new cells cover less surface area than the 800-square centimetres taken up by the previous record holders. The UNSW solar cell configuration works by splitting incoming sunlight into four separate bands.
Mark Keevers, one of the university's researchers, said: “This encouraging result shows that there are still advances to come in photovoltaics research to make solar cells even more efficient.
"Extracting more energy from every beam of sunlight is critical to reducing the cost of electricity generated by solar cells as it lowers the investment needed, and delivering payback faster."
However, four-junction cells aren’t going to end up on a rooftop panel in the near future as they are more expensive to produce and maintain than traditional single-junction cells. They’re better suited to so-called “solar towers”, which use mirrors to aim light at a series of cells which then convert it into electricity via heat.
The UNSW team is now looking to scale up the size of their new cell to 800-square centimetres to see what kind of efficiency can be achieved at these dimensions. At present, the limit is thought to be 53 percent.
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.