How tandem solar cells will change the world

'How tandem solar cells with change the world' text next to an image of solar panels

The energy transition is gathering pace. Investment in clean energy has grown by 40 percent since 2020, culminating in more than 500 gigawatts of renewable generation being installed in 2023.

Underpinning this transition is solar photovoltaics (PV), supported by energy storage. Harnessing the immense power of the sun offers a cost-effective and easily scalable technology to replace fossil fuels and tackle the climate crisis.

Now, clean technology trailblazers are on the brink of supercharging solar PV thanks to a new solution – tandem solar cells.

What are tandem solar cells?

It may not surprise you to learn that tandem solar cells consist of two key elements.

First is the traditional silicon solar cell, which has been the foundation of the solar PV industry up to now, and has become the cheapest form of new energy generation.

It is the second element that is changing the game. By combining the tried and trusted silicon solar cell with a perovskite “top cell”, we can create “tandem” cells which can increase the amount of sunlight a solar cell can convert into zero carbon energy.

The silicon solar cells used in solar panels today turn around 20-22 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity. It’s an impressive feat, but after decades of development, it has reached its efficiency limit.

Enter, the perovskite tandem solar cell.

How do perovskite tandem solar cells work?

Tandem solar cells increase the amount of the solar spectrum that can be captured on a cell, within the same footprint.

The outcome is a minimum 20 percent increase in the efficiency of solar cells, which can help to supercharge the clean energy transition.  

How will they change solar power?

Solar power is already playing a key role in an accelerating energy transition. 349 gigawatts of solar PV was installed globally last year alone, that’s more than four times the total installed power generation in the UK.

Tandem cells, which are on the brink of commercialisation, are designed to be easily integrated into existing solar PV infrastructure, ensuring that the technology can be quickly adopted and deployed by solar manufacturers.

Increasing the efficiency of solar panels has a transformative impact. 

It enables utilities, businesses, homes and speciality deployments such as satellites, to generate more energy and higher financial returns from the same amount of space. 

With populations growing and more of our lives becoming electrified, tandem cells also make solar more desirable in places where it may not have been previously – where space and land are at a premium.

Tandem solar cells will therefore increase the financial incentive to invest in solar, building on an already buoyant market, with $1 billion a day spent on solar deployment in 2023.

The concept has been proven and mass production of the next generation technology is on the near horizon.

Who is leading the way in tandem solar cell technology?

Thanks to companies like Oxford PV, we stand on the brink of a new dawn for the clean energy transition.

The UK-based innovator is a spin-out of the University of Oxford and has been leading the way on developing and commercialising their perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cell.

For more than a decade the company has been pushing physical boundaries and breaking records. In a rapidly moving landscape, the company has regularly claimed world records for solar cell and solar panel efficiency – most recently producing the world’s most efficient solar panel.

With a pilot production facility based in Germany, the company is already mastering the art of taking its innovative technology from the lab to the production line. Now, the company’s next step is to significantly increase its manufacturing capacity to bring the next generation technology to market.

Greenhouse has been working with Oxford PV since August 2023, helping the company to promote the groundbreaking potential of their technology and bring to life how it will transform the solar sector.

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