US looks to Indian manufacturers to build cheaper alternatives to silicon solar cells

US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette tells CERA Week India is 'perfectly positioned' to make perovskite cells

An Indian security personnel poses for media as he walks over rooftops covered in solar panels at the Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant, some 45kms from Amritsar on May 17, 2016. 
Spread over eight rooftops, the solar panels cover some 82 acres. / AFP PHOTO / NARINDER NANU
Powered by automated translation

The United States wants India to explore manufacturing a cheaper alternative to silicon solar cells, U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said on Wednesday, amid high dependence on Chinese technology.

Mr Brouillette, who was addressing a virtual press conference at the conclusion of the India energy forum at the IHS CERAWeek, said India was "perfectly positioned as a potential manufacturer" of perovskite cells, on which the US is conducting research at its national laboratory in Colorado.

"We have seen recently with this pandemic, supply chain issues have arisen with countries like China and in certain cases we have become overly dependent upon one country," Mr Brouillette said.

India has ambitious plans to increase its renewable energy capacity to 175 Gigawatts by 2022, nearly three-fifths of which will be solar power.

The energy hungry nation, which imports over 80 per cent of its solar cells and modules from China, wants to increase domestic manufacturing but has so far had little success.

"It is a technology we want to share with India, we think it is better done there than other parts around the world," Brouillette said.

Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are considered by scientists as a potential cheap alternative to silicon cells.

"PSCs offer a much lower production cost compared to silicon solar cells and its efficiency has improved dramatically," said Sandheep Ravishankar, a scientist researching PSCs at the Institute of Energy and Climate Research, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany.

"However, PSCs are still not stable enough to be considered as a commercial competitor of silicon," he added.

Scientists are also exploring using perovskite in tandem with silicon to increase efficiency, and research on the technology is being carried out in countries including the United States, Saudi Arabia and Germany.