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Solar news: week of August 10th, 2018

In this week’s Solar News Roundup, Tesla is struggling to hit solar roof production goals, and Chinese researchers make significant progress in organic solar cell research.

Tesla solar roof faces more delays, Musk criticism

It’s been over a year of waiting for prospective Tesla solar roof owners, and the waiting doesn’t seem to be ending soon. This past week, reports came out of continued production delays with the Tesla solar roof at the Gigafactory in Buffalo, NY. Along with assembly line difficulties, however, a new problem has appeared: Elon Musk doesn’t think the tiles are up to his aesthetic standards. A former Tesla employee noted that the aesthetic appearance of the tiles is the “big issue.” As a result, only one of the four versions of the tiles has been produced so far.

In response to reports, Tesla released a statement affirming their goal of reducing production delays. “We are steadily ramping up Solar Roof production in Buffalo and are also continuing to iterate on the product design and production process,” the company said. “We plan to ramp production more toward the end of 2018.”

Part of the agreement between Tesla and New York State that brought the energy company to Buffalo revolved around Tesla’s promise to employ 1,460 people in Buffalo and spend $5 billion in the state over ten years. With continued delays on the design and production side, it remains unclear if Tesla is on track to hit these milestones.

Researchers in China make strides in organic solar cell research

In a promising development for future photovoltaic technology, a group of researchers from China has released a study showing that organic solar cells can be just as efficient as traditional silicon models. Their study created organic cells capable of over 17% efficiency (a new record), and indicated that efficiencies of up to 25% were possible.

Organic solar technology is an exciting product due to its relatively low cost compared to traditional silicon technology. Additionally, organic photovoltaics (OPV) are made with carbon and plastic, and can be printed on thin plastic rolls, making them applicable in a much wider variety of ways than silicon panels.

Researchers in this study used tandem cell technology to achieve their new record efficiencies. This means they have essentially combined two active photovoltaic layers in one cell, allowing their product to absorb sunlight at a wider range of wavelengths. The technology is not market-ready, but researchers are optimistic it will be soon. In fact, a similar tandem cell technology is already used in our electronic devices – specifically, in OLED televisions. Before long we may see flexible organic solar cells entering the solar landscape, with applications anywhere from building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) to wearable solar technology.


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