An Interview with Dr. Chung-Han Wu
To lead innovation in clean energy, competition amongst renewables companies is not the solution. Lasting success in solar overhauls the energy infrastructure, decelerates the rate of fossil fuel depletion, and creates technology that sets the standard for large-scale utility initiatives. The future of energy infrastructure is through collaboration.
In June of this year, Boviet Solar USA revealed its newest 60-cell Passivated Emitter Rear Cell (PERC) panels that include a 290W 60-cell Polycrystalline diamond-cut solar module and a 300W Monocrystalline Smart Module with built-in monitoring and module-level shutdown. For commercial and large-scale installations, Boviet Solar USA has developed a 72-cell PERC solar module with customizable 340W polycrystalline half-cut cells module and its 355W Monocrystalline high-efficiency module.
As part of a $1B holdings company, Boviet has created more energy dense modules without an increase in manufacturing cost. PERC technology is functioning at the targets predicted 3 years ago—and that’s just the beginning. The next phase of solar evolution is moving forward. A c-type c-Si solar cell will launch in 2019.
Boviet Solar USA is collaborating with the Ningbo Institute of Industrial Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) on the research of N-Type technology solar cells. The target of this two-year project is to develop mass production technology with conversion efficiency above 22.5% on regular sized n-type wafers. Supporting power levels above 370W, future modules will include N-Type technology solar cell insides and no LID degradation.
|Dr. Wu (on the left) and Drew Palmer, Palmer Ad Agency
Solar Power International 2017
Leading this ambitious initiative is Boviet Solar USA’s CTO, Dr. Chung-Han Wu, who serves as Adjunct Professor of the Department of Photonics at Feng Chia University. His past achievements include a 2001 National Science Council Fellowship, the 2005 Taiwan Merit Scholarship—the first recipient in the field of energy technology, a stint at the United States Department of Defense where he worked on energy related research and solar cell development. Prior to joining Boviet, he led R&D initiatives at two top-10 global solar manufacturers.
In the following interview, he shares his most valuable lessons learned and his vision for the future of solar manufacturing at Boviet.
Why is materials innovation so important right now, especially as the field pertains to solar?
Dr. Wu: Materials science is essential to human life. Material is energy. It’s what we do and who we are. To make something—anything—happen, we need energy. The opportunity in this space has never been more powerful.
The big challenge in materials science today is in efficiency. How can we best combine technologies to create a more powerful solar module? Photonics are limited and piecemeal to the future of solar, at best.
A key lesson that I learned during my tenure as advisor to Cornell University is the importance of aggressive R&D—to challenge assumptions of what we think is possible. New material fabrication is key to making new devices, reduce defects, eliminate current resistance and excite more electronics out of each new modules.
Even before we go to market with new technologies, we are ready to imagine what comes next. Materials innovation is essential to increasing the pace of product development in solar.
What are the biggest challenges that solar materials manufacturers face today? How is Boviet outsmarting these challenges?
Dr. Wu: Materials manufacturing and solar cell structure are deeply entwined. Take our PERC technology, for instance. We apply a dielectric layer on the back of each solar cell. Performance is dependent on not only the properties of these materials but the combination of technologies, interfaces, and key points of connection that direct the flow of energy.
Research needs to be continuous, as a constant evaluation of how components work together. We know our goal—to keep more light in each solar cell by reducing reflection with semiconductors. As soon as we achieve a milestone with this goal, we’re already ready to begin our next phase of advancement.
What makes Boviet’s R&D unique?
Dr. Wu: My studies began in fossil fuels and I learned how to apply the strengths of the industry to renewable energy. From this analysis, we paved the foundations for an operation that could scale. Before building, however, we approach the problems we’re solving from a social science perspective—we study societal needs and use cases, both in depth and on a macro-level, before green-lighting an initiative.
My personal mission is to build the smartest R&D team in the world. I am single-handedly responsible for recruiting a team and building infrastructure such that in the future, crystal cell technology is the only true competitor to the fossil fuel sector.
As part of a billion-dollar holding company, Boviet gives our team complete trust and autonomy. We spent more than $400M on a two-year project and collaborate with academic and institutional partners. My studies are anchored in investments for the good of humanity, and Boviet believes in me.
At the same time, we don’t let our strengths stand in the way of our desire to improve. We need to increase the efficiency of our manufacturing. With the United States being our major market, we put pressure on ourselves to build the best products that the market has to offer. Even with these ambitious goals, we are on track to deliver upon our projected estimates for 2019, when our new modules are expected to reach customers in the United States. We are currently ahead of schedule.
We take an extremely precise approach to forming our projections. We do not exaggerate or mislead our markets. We build our models around trends that are naturally surfacing. We closely observe every aspect of what we develop.
What makes you most proud about your work at Boviet Solar?
Dr. Wu: In developing our PERC technology, we were able to reach a critical mass production threshold in a very short timeframe. To me, however, speed is not the victory—it’s our team’s ability to deliver upon targets and keep our promises. We use cross-functional knowledge from marketing to engineering to better understand our market and to create a business environment that conforms to societal systems.
Our goal goes beyond being a profitable company. We’re uniquely positioned to reduce carbon emissions and slow down global warming. We’re building a less polluted world. We don’t need government assistance. Even when we hit a new threshold, we realize that there is still room to grow.
What makes me proud is that there is still room to grow. We are building the future.
What does the future hold for Boviet Solar USA?
Dr. Wu: It’s simple. We’re building a product that prioritizes quality, safety, and performance. As we pursue our aggressive goals, our work will become more meaningful and translate into a higher quality of life, for all humans around the world.
We’re hiring smart, innovative R&D leaders at all organizational levels. We welcome you to join us in building the future of solar infrastructure—a movement that will shape the future of mankind. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.