SOPHIA is a European Commission-funded project aiming at the better utilisation of Europe’s photovoltaic energy research infrastructure.
Key among its objectives is the provision of access free of charge to this research infrastructure (“Transnational Access activities”). Money from the Commission will also be used to improve the facilities (through “Joint Research Activities”) and to cover the cost of bringing the infrastructure owners together to share best practice and to co-ordinate their work (“Networking Activities”).
“User groups” are eligible to use a SOPHIA facility if the group leader and the majority of the members of his/her group work in an institution established in an EU Member State or Associated State (Norway, Switzerland, Israel, Iceland, Croatia, Turkey). The majority of group members should come from outside the SOPHIA network. Furthermore, the user group leader and the majority of the users must work in a country other than the country(ies) where the legal entity(ies) operating the infrastructure is(are) established. And crucially, only user groups that are entitled to disseminate the foreground they generate during their work at the facility may access it free of charge. Calls for proposals to access the infrastructure will be issued every six months. This will happen six times in the four-year project, beginning in July 2011.
The infrastructures accessible through the project are given in the diagram below. They are sorted into two groups. The research infrastructure in the TNA01 group consists of advanced equipment for characterising innovative materials and experimenting on them, and of computing resources for modelling the mechanical, thermal and optical properties of complex cells (e.g. multi-junctions) in various environments. The infrastructures in the TNA02 group consist of testing and monitoring facilities for predicting, assessing and certifying the performance and reliability of PV and CPV modules. Common standards for comparing the performance of modules will be developed within the SOPHIA project.
The research infrastructure within the SOPHIA project, accessible to European researchers for free through the SOPHIA project’s transnational access programme.
Further details on Networking Activities and Joint Research Activities are given below.
The project’s Networking Activities are in the following areas:
Managing the selection of applications for transnational access and any associated administration.
The partners in SOPHIA will divide into expert groups covering a particular technology. The activities of these expert groups are given below. The identity of the partner leading each group is given in brackets. More details (including of the other SOPHIA partners in each group) are available in this presentation. A single report integrating the individual yearly reports written by these groups covering their work will be available each year. A “PV infrastructure strategic vision” will be ready by the end of the project, drawing conclusions from the annual report and looking at the long-term prospects of the SOPHIA collaboration: attention will be given to the money needed to sustain the partnership, how to widen it within Europe and internationally. SOPHIA partners will also set aside time to provide an input to EERA-PV’s work programme in 2012.
- Si materials (ISE-IWES)
The expert group will initialise, develop and supervise activities such as:
- Overview actual feedstock sources and expected development in this area
- Assessment of related critical material parameters,
- Availability and further adaptation and improvement of characterisation techniques,
- Develop and establish control route for impact on solar cell level including process dependence.
- Organic material (RISOE-DTU)
Partners involved will participate on the definition of the technology roadmap of OPV technology, focusing on basic research on materials and device development, including encapsulation. The inputs of partners will come through participation in international conferences, compiling research carried out at national level, and active participation in European networks. Activities can be subdivided into topics on:
- Basic research –materials development; characterization methods; theory
- Processing methods
- Market introduction and deployment.
- Thin films (HZB)
Experts in analysis by photons and neutrons will discuss current analytical questions in thin film PV technology, especially concerning calibration, traceability, the spectral response of multi-junction modules and pre-conditioning procedures.
- Concentrator PV (ISE-IWES)
The expert group will draft a technology roadmap, focusing on energy prediction with CPV using multi-junction solar cells and the reliability of electronic and mechanical parts in CPV systems.
- Cell modelling (Jülich)
The experts will report on:
- Device modelling including of organic solar cells
- Performance predictions
- Modelling of coherent optics and electronic quantum transport
- Lifetime prediction (ECN)
The expert group will maintain a database of research infrastructure for accelerated ageing tests and develop and establish new test methodologies as draft working proposals for IEC TC82, WG2.
- Module and System performance (JRC)
The expert group will supervise work on:
- Energy yield prediction: standardized procedures for PV-modules and systems
- Recycling of modules and BOS components
- Qualification of BOS components (fuses, overvoltage protection devices, cables, supports)
- BIPV (CEA-INES)
The experts will report on:
- additional constraints arising from the integration in buildings of PV: temperature, thermo-mechanical constraints, architectural aesthetics, hazards, fires
- Specific methods for performance prediction, including when necessary multi-functional aspects (visual, thermal and electrical)
- Definition and harmonisation of criteria for bi-facial modules
- Strategic vision implementation (CEA-INES)
Every year the different leaders of the expert groups above will meet to share their main results before releasing their consolidated annual report. These inputs will ultimately be combined into a “PV infrastructure strategic vision”.
The aim of this Networking Activity is to ensure the reliability of the activities performed by each research infrastructure. This will be done through:
- Organisation of networking laboratory seminars and workshops to create initial consensus on the tasks that follow
- General criteria for laboratory work and equipment management
- Development of common database (having as its aim to be a repository for data that will improve LCA calculations for existing PV products and processes) on
- the characteristics of the solar spectrum at different locations
- the results of accelerated testing procedures and degradation phenomena in solar modules gathered from round-robin tests on defined pre-described samples
- the properties of materials being tested or used in the project
- the criteria and methodologies for assessing the environmental impacts of PV technologies, according to standard protocols (ISO14040 series).
- Development of common testing procedures: guidelines and proposals to international standardisation committees:
The SOPHIA project will pay for, at least in part, three different kinds of researcher mobility:
- Senior researchers employed by one SOPHIA partner go to the site of another SOPHIA partner for the purpose of performing SOPHIA-related work.
- Junior researchers from one partner travel to the site of another to receive training in an area where that partner has a particular expertise.
- Researchers outside SOPHIA will be invited to get to know the research infrastructure in the project.
This is the Activity in which EUREC Agency is most involved. It will involve the creation and maintenance of SOPHIA’s website, which will be the first port of call for people seeking information on SOPHIA in general or on a particular task related to the project.
The Activity will also cover outreach by the project to non-SOPHIA organisations, where it is EUREC’s responsibility to bring the opportunities to use SOPHIA’s research infrastructure to the attention of the wider PV community.
Two public conferences will be held that target regional competitiveness clusters (known in France as “Pôles de compétitivité”). A competitiveness cluster is a region where large- and small-scale industries all active in a particular sector can be found at high concentration. The first of these meetings will be held halfway through the project – the second at the end.
Opportunities will be provided by EUREC Agency for senior researchers from the SOPHIA consortium to provide lectures and presentations on the project in different European Master courses.
Joint research activities
Publicly-available accelerated lifetime-testing protocols or standards do not exist, making the PV industry heavily dependent on tests defined by the standards IEC61215, 61646, and 61730. These standards are inadequate as they allow manufacturers to offer warranties up to only 20 years. The competitiveness of PV could be steeply increased if warranties could be offered for 30 or 40 years.
This activity will
- List of required and available testing at the various partners
- Define test samples and a test procedure
- Review the test criteria for interconnect and encapsulation quality
- Perform ageing experiments on test samples
- Describe new test methodologies for lifetime prediction
- Model and verify new test methodologies
Tests for accurately predicting the energy output and power of PV modules will be devised. Using these tests, SOPHIA hopes to achieve accuracies of 5% in the yearly output of modules. These will particularly focus on modules using novel materials (esp. thin-films, back-contacted cells and the multi-junction devices used in CPV) and BIPV, and on the behaviour of modules at low irradiance and the temperature-dependence of their output.
This activity will
- Compare and contrast current tests
- Subject novel technologies to these tests at different locations (flash-testing and testing by outdoor installation), populating a shared database containing irradiance data and comparing to measured output from the module, with ultimate aim of being able to offer reliable and comparable IV-characterisation
Work done under this heading will include:
- (Si): Silicon with a purity that is less than “solar-grade” could become an important feedstock for the silicon-based PV industry. Less pure silicon, such as UMG, must be characterised. This will be carried out using imaging techniques. The specification of solar-grade silicon will be further developed through analysis of its crystallographic structure. The accuracy with which it is possible characterise these materials will be assessed. SOPHIA will work with standardisation committees to ensure that existing standards are updated or new ones created that reflect the new differentiations in material made possible through the characterisation techniques.
- (Organic): common protocols for screening materials for active layers and contacts for both small molecule and polymer-based devices will be develop – so will methods to predict OPV performance and lifetime
- (Thin films and TCOs): A best-practice guide for the characterisation of TCO quality will be produced looking at such indicators as surface structure, electro-optical properties, light-scattering and its relation to cell performance, the difficulty in growing subsequent layers and the stability of the TCO material. A common procedure for characterising multi-junction cells as a function of the irradiance spectrum they are exposed to will be agreed. Spectroscopic X-ray characterization methods will be used to characterise thin-film absorber, buffer and window materials in terms of bulk and surface composition and electronic properties. Attempts will be made to link them to device parameters like efficiency, VOC, JSC and FF. EPR will also be used for characterisation.
This activity aims to enhance the reliability, efficiency and applicability of the available models and software tools level and to allow the merging of cell, module and system modelling by defined harmonised interfaces between each level. If these models can be developed, the cost and complexity of real-life experiments can be avoided.