‘Father of PV’ Martin Green launches next generation of solar modules

Sunport Power has unveiled its innovative ‘metal wrap through’ solar cell design, launching the new modules in the Australian market in Sydney, that the company believes will be a “game changer” in the solar module market.

The new module designs were launched by the inventor of some of the most significant advances in solar cell design, Australian researcher and the Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales, Martin Green.

Green is widely considered the ‘father of solar PV‘, having lead the research team at the University of New South Wales that took solar PV out of the lab and into the market, consistently holding the world record for silicon solar cell efficiencies for around three decades.

In recognition of his achievements, Green was successful at beating out Tesla’s Elon Musk to the 2018 Global Energy Prize.

With the launch of the ‘metal wrap through design’, Green hopes that the Australian solar PV innovations can continue to achieve greater dominance in the global solar market.

Martin Green at sunport MWT launch solar juice - optimised 2
The innovative contact patterning on the Sunport MWT cells

The success of the UNSW research team was achieved through the development of the ‘passivated emitter rear contact’ solar cell, more widely known as the PERC cell, that was able to achieve higher efficiencies while keeping production costs that are comparable to conventional solar cell designs.

Along with his continuing position at UNSW, Green now serves as the chief scientific officer at Sunport Power, after joining the company in 2018.

Sunport Power has a close association with UNSW, and the commercialisation of Australian solar PV research, with the company being founded by Fengming Zhang , a former UNSW solar researcher and served as a researcher at the former Australian solar PV manufacturer Pacific Solar.

At Sunport, Zhang has led the development of a ‘metal wrap through’ design, an innovative approach to laying the metal contacts used to collect electric current from solar cells.

“What Sunport has been able to do is combine the ‘metal wrap through’ technique with the PERC cell design. So you’re combining to advanced technologies to get a technology that is superior to either,” Green said at the product launch.

“I’ve had many discussions with Dr Zhang about the technology and encouraged him to combine the good work he was doing with the metal wrap through, with our PERC technology. That technology that was developed by the University of New South Wales has now taken over the world, and Sunport has a very special slant on it” Green added.

The UNSW developed PERC cell has gradually gained prominence in the global solar market, with around half of all solar panels sold globally in 2019 utilising the PERC design. This market share is only expected to grow in coming decades.

PERC cells to dominate the solar PV market 2
The UNSW developed PERC cell has become the dominant solar cell design. Credit: ITRPV 2019

Having achieved a dominant market position, Australia’s legacy in the development of solar energy will only grow.

With dramatic decreases in costs and rapid growth in production, forecasts have predicted that solar PV will become the dominant provider of new electricity generation capacity globally, with the IEA predicting that solar PV will become the largest source of electricity generation by 2040.

By adjusting the design of the electrical contacts on the surface of the cell, the Sunport MWT solar cells have been able to minimise the amount of solar cell surface area covered by the contacts.

This has improved both the efficiency and reliability of the solar cells, with most variations of the module designs achieving module efficiencies of more than 20%, as well as reducing the potential environmental impact of the cells when they need to be disposed.

“It’s a lead-free module, so that’s going to be very important in the future when you’re talking about the recycling of these modules,” Green said.

The Sunport MWT solar modules were unveiled at a launch event in Sydney, in partnership with Australian solar equipment distributors Powerark Solar and SolarJuice, who will serve as the primary distributors of the modules in Australia.

The innovative design approach has also allowed for the production of thinner and lighter solar modules.

The Sunport MWT solar cells will come with a 30-year warranty, backed by global insurer Lloyds, which has recognised improvements in the robustness of the solar cells that have been achieved through the ‘metal wrap through’ design approach.

The extended operating life of the cells also boosts the expected lifetime performance of the modules, allowing users to expect an additional 5-years of operation, above the standard guaranteed 25-year operating life of most solar modules currently available on the market.

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