“New York Times, April 26, 1954: MURRAY HILL, N.J.—A solar battery, the first of its kind, which converts useful amounts of the sun’s radiation directly and efficiently into electricity, has been constructed here by Bell Telephone Laboratories . . . It may mark the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams—the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for uses of civilization.” This announcement market a subtle change in the direction of our electricity future. The birth of modern photovoltaics (PV) traces only to the mid-1950s, with the Bell Telephone Laboratories’ development of an efficient, single-crystal Si solar cell. The inventors (Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson) did not envision that their 2-cm2, 6%-efficient solar cell would lead to our world of electricity projecting terawatts generated from this simple device. They did not really foresee the surge of manufacturing and deployment in Asia, the embracing of the green-energy benefits in Europe, and the paradoxical investment in these technologies by the petroleum-abundant Arab countries—nor the evolvement from those milliwatts of the 1950s to the multi-GW production of today. Since then, Si has dominated the technology and the markets, from space through terrestrial applications. In this presentation, we examine the current status of PV—where we are with the technology (costs, manufacturing, markets) and the industry. We will examine at the status of R&D, markets, manufacturing, and technical investments. And look toward the future—the prospects, potential, gaps, needs, and coming generations of solar electricity. We illustrate the role and importance of innovation and vision in technology development. We will look back to time, providing insights into the early innovators and visionaries—their motivations, their expertise, and how these beginnings have brought us closer “the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams.” And we stress that the “future of photovoltaics” is already here!
Lawrence L. Kazmerski is Emeritus Research Staff Member of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colorado, having last served as Executive Director Science and Technology Partnerships at NREL 2009-2013. He is currently Research Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, with the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI). Previously, Kazmerski served as the founding Director of the National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV) for the period 1999 through 2008. He received his B.S.E.E. (1967), M.S.E.E. (1968) and Ph.D. (1970) in electrical engineering—all from the University of Notre Dame. He served a postdoctoral position with the Atomic Energy Commission at the Notre Dame Radiation Research Laboratory, January through August 1971. He was on the electrical engineering faculty (Associate Professor) at the University of Maine before coming to the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI-which became NREL in 1991) in 1977. His research at Maine included NSF- and ERDA-funded work in thin-film photovoltaics and the report of the first thin-film copper-indium-diselenide (CIS) solar cell. He was SERI’s (NREL’s) first staff member in photovoltaics, hired specifically to establish research efforts in characterization off photovoltaic materials and de vices; he led NREL efforts in measurements and characterization for more than 20 years. Kazmerski has more than 325 publications and some 200 invited talks. He holds 4 patents for instrument development, which resulted in 4 R&D 100 Awards. His research interests included the DOE Office of Science Energy Frontiers Research Center (EFRC) at NREL dealing with “materials-by-design” (www.centerforinversedesign.org), for which he served as the Project Integrator (2009-2012), and solar projects ranging from the rebuilding of the electricity infrastructure using PV in Iraq through mitigation dust problems for PV collectors (with emphasis on the MENA countries). He served as the Co-Director of the US-India Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center (“Solar Energy Research Institute for India and the U.S.” or SERIIUS – www.SERIIUS.org). Currently he is involved with PV reliability R&D supported by the government of Brazil—especially dealing with soiling issues and mitigation with various PV technologies – www.PVReliability.org. At CU-Boulder, he serves as the Program Integrator for the CU “DOE Sunshot Initiative” programs on perovskite materials and solar cells. He has been recognized with several national and international awards, including the World PV Prize, the IEEE William R. Cherry Award, the AVS Perter Mark Memorial Award, the ASES Charles Greeley Abbot Award, and the ISES Christopher A. Weeks Award. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, Fellow of the APS, Fellow of the AVS, and Fellow of ASES. Kazmerski hold joint research (renewable energy) appointment with the Chinese Academy of Science, the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais (Brasil) and is the Gandhi Distinguished Visiting Professor with the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), working with their PV efforts. In 2017, Kazmerski was appointed as Distinguished Lecturer for the IEEE Electron Devices Society (EDS). Kazmerski is a member (elected 2005) of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. In November 2018, he was elected as a foreign member of the Indian Academy of Engineering.