ZSW and KAUST to Investigate PV Modules in a Desert Climate

May 04, 2014 by Jeff Shepard

The Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, have joined forces to drive the development of thin-film technology. KAUST President Jean-Lou Chameau and Prof. Michael Powalla, ZSW board member and Head of the Photovoltaics division, agreed to this alliance at an international workshop for thin-film solar cells held in late April in Thuwal. The conference, attended by many scientists and entrepreneurs from leading industrial nations, also marked the inauguration of the newly founded Solar & Photovoltaics Engineering Research Center (SPERC) at KAUST University.

The memorandum of understanding signed by ZSW and KAUST stipulates an initial term of five years for this collaboration in thin-film photovoltaic technology. It will include an exchange program for scientists and students, the sharing of knowledge and publications, and joint events and R&D projects. As ZSW board member Prof. Powalla explains it, "We will work with the new and very well-equipped SPERC Center to conduct research in materials, manufacturing processes, characterization techniques and practical applications with thin-film solar modules operating under a desert climate's special environmental conditions. And for European companies, Saudi Arabia and the entire MENA region presents a promising market with excellent potential for the use of renewable energy."

KAUST President Jean-Lou Chameau welcomed this new alliance of ZSW and SPERC: "This cooperation between KAUST and ZSW presents new opportunities to drive research and development in photovoltaics, which is such an important technology to Saudi Arabia. Working together, we can develop and bring to market new, ultra efficient thin-film technologies."

Saudi Arabia plans to have 16 gigawatts of peak photovoltaic capacity installed by 2030 as part of a Renewable Energy Program . In addition to generating electricity from solar power, this program calls for solar thermal, wind, geothermal and waste-to-energy power generation capacities and R&D capabilities to be developed further, as well as for collaboration with renewable energy experts from abroad.

With this project providing the backdrop, KAUST University's newly founded Solar & Photovoltaics Engineering Research Center was officially inaugurated with a two-day international workshop. The first day of workshops was devoted to science with speakers from the USA, KAUST University and ZSW discussing research and development of CIGS and Kesterite solar cells. During the second industry-centric day, company representatives from South Africa, Japan, the USA and Germany discussed topics related to the manufacturing and application of CIGS thin-film solar modules. The development of the photovoltaic market and opportunities to promote local value creation in Saudi Arabia were also on the workshop's agenda.