Techno-economic viability of silicon-based tandem photovoltaic modules in the United States

Zhengshan Yu, Joe V. Carpenter, Zachary Holman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Tandem photovoltaic modules with silicon bottom cells offer a promising route to exceed the single-junction photovoltaic efficiency limit and further lower the levelized cost of solar electricity. However, it is unclear whether continued improvements in efficiency will render tandem modules cost-competitive with their two constituent sub-cells, and with silicon technology in particular. Here, we construct a simple and versatile techno-economic model that, for a given balance-of-systems scenario, calculates the tandem module efficiency and cost from assumed sub-cell module efficiencies and costs. To understand which input conditions are likely to be representative of the future photovoltaic market, we calculate learning rates for both module and area-related balance-of-system costs, and find that the slower learning rate of the latter means that high-efficiency tandems will become increasingly attractive. Further, in the residential market in 2020, the model indicates that top-cell modules could cost up to US$100 m–2—over twice that of the projected silicon module cost—and the associated tandem module would be cost-competitive if its energy yield, degradation rate, service life and financing terms are similar to those of silicon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-753
Number of pages7
JournalNature Energy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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