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the investment for photovoltaic systems, including all wiring and electrical compo-
nents, on residential rooftops, will nowadays be earned back by consumers in less
than eight years, while the modules are designed for a lifetime of at least 20-25 years.

In order to drive the cost of electricity from solar system down even further, exten-
sive studies on the improvement of these modules are executed: A wide variety of
technologies exist in various stages of development, from the standard crystalline
silicon modules that currently dominate the market, all the way to early stage research
efforts, such as quantum dot solar cells.

10 5

GW decommissioned / installed -5 installed


-10 decommissioned

Wind PV Biomass Hydro CSP Gas Coal Fuel oil

Figure 1.2:
Power generation capacities installed and decommissioned in the EU in 2013. The green techniques are the ‘renewables’,
while the grey techniques are based on the burning of fossil fuel. Modified based on [2].

In between these extremes are the ‘thin film’ photovoltaics, which are various types of
solar cells with thicknesses of only a few micrometres. This is significantly thinner than
the crystalline silicon solar cells, which have thicknesses of around 100-200 µm. The
‘thin film’ solar cells include cadmium telluride (CdTe), thin film silicon (amorphous,
nano- and microcrystalline), perovskites and copper indium gallium selenide (Cu(In,-
Ga)Se or CIGS). Since only a small quantity of solar cell material is required, these cells
can be very cost-effective. Furthermore, this thickness allows the formation of flexible,
bendable solar modules, which opens the way to many new applications.

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