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With Canada on a transformative journey to achieve carbon-free electricity generation and net-zero emissions, there is now an ever-growing demand for development and technological advancement in the solar energy industry.
Solar energy is the third largest renewable energy source and recent R&D efforts in next-generation solar cell technology is aiming to maximize solar-to-energy efficiency and minimize manufacturing complexity and cost, potentially enabling rapid terawatt-scale solar deployment and placing solar in the center of the future’s global energy system.
Solar cell technology is seeing a shift from silicon-based to amorphous silicon, perovskite, and bifacial based material. Halide perovskite cells and silicon/perovskite hybrid cells have gained attention as they have shown superior characteristics in terms of energy output efficiency and manufacturing costs. Despite significant progress in increasing the efficiency of perovskite solar cell (3% in 2009 to over 30%), a number of challenges remain in the way of commercialization.
At the core of these challenges are limitations associated with the potential decomposition of perovskite in reaction with moisture and oxygen as well as the viable manufacturing and stability of high-efficiency devices at a large scale. Developing a manufacturing process that is scalable and reproducible is necessary for commercialization. Additionally, there is a need for sufficient field data to prove the long-term operational performance and technological viability of these systems.
The Canadian government continues to invest in advancements of renewable energy to support its road to net-zero emissions by 2050. The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program is a tax incentive administered by the federal and provincial governments, which benefit businesses by providing an Investment tax credit (ITC) as a refund and allowing R&D expenditures to be deducted from income for tax purposes. This program encourages organizations of all sectors, from start-ups to large multinationals, to conduct R&D in Canada.
The potential for SR&ED eligibility is high for companies working to increase the efficiency and lifetime, and ultimately advance the commercialization of next-gen solar cell technology. This high potential is associated with the fact that hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite solar cells technology is still globally in the demonstration phase for which several technological challenges, such as stability, durability, commercial manufacturing, and at-scale power-conversion efficiency are prevalent. In addition to SR&ED, there are a substantial number of funding programs offered by different government organizations, including but not limited to NRCan (Natural Resources Canada), Mitacs, SIF (Strategic Innovation Fund), and ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada), that invest in companies carrying out R&D, innovation, demonstration, and commercialization in the renewable energy industry.