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Chapter 1

1.1 Photovoltaics
Switching from finite and polluting energy sources to renewable and clean sources
is one of the great challenges of our age. As such, many kinds of renewable energy
technologies are major areas of current research. One of these technologies is based
on the photovoltaic (PV) effect, which allows the direct conversion of solar radiation
into electricity by ‘solar cells’. This technology is showing rapid growth and also has
great future potential [1], as is shown in Figure 1.1: the potential of the solar radiation
on a small part of the globe is large enough to provide electricity for the whole world.

The potential of electricity generated by photovoltaics based technologies as well as
other renewable energy sources is more and more recognised. This is for example visi -
ble in Figure 1.2, which shows the installation and decommissioning of power sources
in the European Union in 2013. While facilities for energy production based on fossil
fuels have a larger decommissioning than installation rate, capacity for renewable
sources grows rapidly. For solar energy, this is not surprising, since electricity generat -
ed with solar modules, which are panels with connected solar cells has reached ‘grid
parity’ in large parts of world. This indicates that the sales price of electricity obtained
with solar modules is now the same or lower than for electricity obtained with fossil
fuels. In The Netherlands,

0.05% of the sunlight is enough to
yield electricity for the whole planet

Figure 1.1:
Estimated required surface of the earth (yellow) required to fill with solar modules in order to provide the whole world with
energy (Based on a global solar irradiation of 5.000.000 ExaJoule/year, an energy use of 500 ExaJoule/year and 20% efficient
solar modules).

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