Is conversion efficiency still relevant to qualify advanced multi-junction solar cells?
Gueymard, Christian A.
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For better conversion of sunlight into electricity, advanced architectures of multi-junction (MJ) solar cells include increasing numbers of subcells. The Achilles’ heel of these cells lies in their increased sensitivity to the spectral distribution of sunlight, which is likely to significantly alter their performance during real working operation. This study investigates the capacity of MJ solar cells comprising up to 10 subcells to accommodate a wide range of spectral characteristics of the incident radiation. A systematic study is performed, aimed at a realistic estimation of the energy output of MJ-based concentrating photovoltaic systems at characteristic locations selected to represent a large range of climatic conditions. We show that optimal MJ architectures could have between 4 and 7 subcells. Beyond seven subcells, the slight gains in peak efficiency are likely outweighed by detrimental increases in dependence on local conditions and in annual yield variability. The relevance of considering either conversion efficiency or modeled energy output as the most appropriate indicator of the cell performance, when considering advanced architectures of MJ solar cells, is also discussed.