A typical silicon solar-electric panel has to produce power for two years just to return the energy invested to harvest its raw materials, process them and manufacture the panel.
Now, a new material promises to cut that time from two years to as little as three months.
The result: Solar panels that cost even less than they do now – and a new market for an obscure mineral.
Perovskite is a combination of calcium and titanium. Although solar cells made from perovskite are less efficient than silicon in converting sunlight to electricity, perovskite still beats silicon in a cradle-to-grave analysis of “energy payback,” totaling up the energy needed to mine raw materials, make the panel and deal with it after it’s worn out, according to scientists at Argonne National Laboratory. Now the race is on to see how well perovskite solar cells wear over time.