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National Power and Energy Conference (PECon) 2003 Proceedings, Bangi, Malaysia 300

Photo voltaic Solar Energy Technology Overview

for Malaysia Scenario
N. M. Maricar, E. Lee, H. K. Lim, M. F. Sepikit, M. R. M. Maskum, M. F. Ahmad, and M. A.
Abstract--This paper encompasses all the research details
obtained pertaining to the topic of photovoltaic solar energy
and its scenario for Malaysia. It sbows how solar technology
evolved from the beginning up to present time. The
developments of this promising way of generating cheap,
effeclive and reliable energy technology are included. They
focus on photovollaic (PV) effect and process, types of
materials, efciency, application, benefits and the future of PV
technology in Malaysia. It is found that for Malaysia, the PV
scenario plays a very important role for increasing its local
energy utilizatiun index.
KeYIVords--Cryslalline, Energy. utilizatiun, Electro-
deposition, Insolation, Inverter, Irradiance, Photovoltaic.

uring the last ten years, the world has awakened to the
fact that fossil fuels are causing tremendous damage to
the earth. More importantly, these non-renewable
energy resources are quickly dwindling and will no longer
be available in the near fture due to rapid exploitation.
Environmental phenomenon, such as global warmng and
depletion of the ozone layer attributed to emissions from
massive fuel combustion are slowly but surely causing
widespread problem to every living thing on earth.
Renewable energy, particularly photovoltaic techology is
one very effective solution available today [IJ.
In laymen's ten, photovoltaic

(PV) panels, commonly
called solar cells, are simply converters. They convert a
"fuel" from one form of energy (unlight) into another form
of energy (electricity) using no moving parts, consuming
no conventional fels, creating no pollution, and lasting for
decades with little maintenance. The term "photo" is derived
from the Greek word "phos," which means "!ight." "Volt,"
a comonly used unit of electricity, is named after
Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), a pioneer in the study of
electricity. "Photo-voltaic" then, could literally be translated
as "light-electricity" [4].
Photovoltaic technology utilizes cells that are able to
convert sunlight directly into electricity. When sunlight
strikes a PY cell, electrons are dislodged, creating an
electrical current. Though in its adolescence, the direct
conversion of daylight into electricity by photovoltaic solar
cells is one of the most promising of the renewable energy
options to have emerged in the recent years.
Its humble be
innings can be traced back to the year
1839. Edmund Becquerel observed that when direct light
falls on one of the electrodes of an electrolyte process,
voltage was created and he nameddt the photovoltaic efect.
N. M. Maricar, E. Lee, H. K. Lim, M. F. Sepikit, M. R. M. Maskum,
M. F. Ahmad, M. A. Mahmood are with Kolej Universiti Keoangsaan
Malaysia, Melaka, Malaysia.
0-7803-8208-0103/$17.00 2003 IEEE.
Since then, from the early 1950s, a new method of
generating electricity was soon developed. In terms of its
potential benefts to manind, the invention of. this
completely new way of generating electricity may come to
rank in importance with Faraday's discovery of
.electromagnetic induction, which led to the development of
electric generators and motors.
The frst commercial 'use of photovoltaic CPY) was in
1954, to monitor a satellite in space. The cost of the power
then was US$I OOO/W; these days an installed PY system can
be bought from as low as $7/W to over US$20/W,
depending on the complexity. Today, PY is used worldwide
in many applications, from niche markets in developed
countries to primary village power in rural economies and
developing countries [1].
Firstly, solar panels are mounted on the roof or any other
parts of a mounting device to absorb the maximum possible
solar energy. These panels (a photovoltaic array) generate
direct current (dc) electricity from the sun's rays. When
sunlight falls on solid-state, mainly silicon-based chips, it
causes an electrical charge in the chips and direct curent
electricity flows through the chip. In this system, the dc
power is changed to alterating current (ac) in an inverter.
Other systems may use directly the dc power that has been
The photovoltaic efect is the basic physical process
through which a PY cell converts sunlight into electricity.
Sunlight is composed of photons Ivpackets of solar energy.
These photons contain different amounts of energy that
correspond to the diferent wavelengths of the solar
spectrum. When photons strike a PV cell, they may be
refected or absorbed, or they may pass right through. Te
absorbed photons generate "''''TII:I'
Fig. I. Diferent conditions of photons traversing through the atmosphere;
ei}her refected, scattered, difused or absorbed [6],
The energy of a photon is transferred to an electron in an
atom of the semiconductor device, With its newlound
energy, the electron is able to escape from its normal
position associated wilh a single alom in Ihe semiconductor
to become part of the current in an electrical circuit. Special
electrical properties of the PV cell, a built-in electric licld
provides the voltage needed to drive the current through all
external load [6).
Fig. 2. Diagram showing how lighl energy falling onlo pholovollaic
material causes eleetrns to dislodge and move in IIni-direction to create
curent (6).
PV comes il several different favors, so to speak, though
the bulk of the material in use today is silicon-based. In
general, PV materials are categorized as either crstalne or
thin flm and are judged on two basic criteria: efciency and
Crystalline cells are basically silica-based materials that
has .been melted and crystallized, Thin 11m cells are
produced by depositing a liquidized semiconductor material
directly onto glass, plastic or stai nless steel substrat.e.
Semiconductor materials most frcqucntly lIscd in thin lilm
technology are silicon, copper indiull1 diselenide or
cadmium telluride.
While thin fm cells achieve lower efciencies than
crystalline cells, the production process is considerably less
expensive, and because thin flm cells can be extremely light
and fexible, they can meet a variety of needs ror which
crystalline solar cells are too big or too rigid [4J,
A, Sil/gle Oys/alline Silicoll Cell
Single crystalline silicon cells are the oldest and most
efcient tye of photovoltaic cell. Single crystalline cells are
produced by slowly extracting a large, pear-shaped crystal
from a liquid silicon bath. This crystal is sliced into
extremely thin "wafers" (usually about the thickness of a
fngerail), which are processed into solar cells. Because the
wafers, whieh come from the same perfect silicon crystal,
are nearly identical to one another in structure, they yield
highly efcient cells (ofen transforming over 15 percent of
sunlight into electricity); however, its robustness is marred
by the production process which is energy extensive, slow
and expensive [1].
B. POlYClystalli,lc Silicon Cell
As opposed to cxtmeting a singlc crystal from a silicn
hlh, likl' Imw il is ((Olil' wilh sillgk cryslallim' L lIs. lIutlli
crystalline or polycrystallinc cells arc formed by ponring
hot, liquid silicon into molds or casts. Once cookd and
hardened, the silicon OIneb arc slicl'd in a similar filShi(l1l 10
the single crystals described above. Compared to single
crystalline cells, llIulti-nystalline cells arc less expensive to
pnl(hlce h(causl their nJalHlillt"lllring proCl'SS dolS 1I0t
require many careful hOUS of cooling and rolaling silicoll
material. 1I0wever, polynylaJlillc cells arc h:ss I:fli(il:llt
than single crystalline cells, nvcmging II 10 15 pl:rcent II].
I'IJIIJ |86|M|

# \.,.
Fig. 3. Single cryslalline Fig. 4. I'"rycryslall,ne
silicon cells 1
1 silicon cells 141c
C Amorphous Sicon Celf
hous silicon cells (a-Si), a type of thin-lilm
technology, arc already lIsed in 1Il1lly I'V 1llduks,
Amorphous silicon cells are composed of randomly arranged
atoms, having no predictable crystal structure. It forms a
dense, non-crystalline material resembling glass. The silicon
layer is less than a millionth of a meter (a micron) thick,
requiring cOllsidembly less purl silkoll lhell olher celllypes,
making it less expensive to produce; however, thin flm
silicon cells lack the ordered stmcture and inherent
photovoltaic propertil:s of crystalline siliculI , am
commercial efciency averages only 6 to 7 pErCEllt [21.
D. Copper Ilidilllll (Gallium) Disefl'lIide Celf
Coppcr indiUIll disclelJidc is : semiconducting ll1atrial
which was choscn as a I'V substance due tn its high
absorption cocflicicnt and potcntially illlxpellsiv
preparalion. Thin lilms or CIS were first introduced in the
1970's and then combined with cadmium sulphide (CdS)
IiIms to 10l"m D solar cell. This PV Iype is very promising
hecllusc the nlllterirls used arc ncither loxic nm diflicult In
ohtain, with the except ion of indium. Nonetheless, large
scale prudUdioJis duc to insurticicnt indium contribute to its
constmints. CIS lnyCrs can he prodllced hy different
techniques, one common method being the thermal
evaporation of each clcment simultaneously onlo a COlllmon
sllbstrate, which yields the highe,t efciency. t Inlike the a-Si
cells, the CIS cells have good long term outdoor reliability,
wilh efficiencies ranging /i'OIll 7 10 10 pcrccntl2 J.
Fig. 5. Amorhous silicun
cells 14].

Fil. 6. Cupper indium
disclcnide cells 14).
E. Cadmium Telluride Cell
Cadmium telluride is a very promising material' for thin
fi lm solar cells. It can either be p-type or n-tye, has a high
absorption coeficient and bears good electrical transport
properties. Theoretically, CdTe cells have a maximum
eficiency close to 25 percent. Practically, eficiencies
approaching IS percent have been achieved in laboratory
while module efciencies register approximately 10 percent.
The major problem plaguing the development ofCdTe cells
are the lifetime reduction of carriers in the material and the
difculty of making low resistance contacts that do not
degrade over time. Additionally, CdTe is attractive because
of the variety of methods by which suitable layers can be
produced. One of these ways is the electro-deposition of
CdTe which is very feasible for commercial production of
ells [1].
F Gallium Arsenide Cell
Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is an attactive PV material due
to its relatively high absorption rate. Nonetheless, high
production costs associated witli GaAs has limited the
utilization of these cells to special cases. Most modem cells
consists of thin films of GaAs' grown on substrates such as
geraniwn, Ge. One of its main advantage is there is no
performance drop even with rise in temperature. Therefore,
it is a good material for concentrator tpe solar cells.
However, its disadvantage: gallium and arsenic are not so
abundantly available compared to silicon. Thus, GaAs cells
are rather expensive [2].
The amount of energy produced by a PV device depends
not only on available solar energy but also on how well the
device, or solar cell, converts sunlight to usefl electrical
energy. This is called the device or solar cell efciency. It is
defned as the amount of electricity produced divided by the
sunlight energy stiking te PV device. Scientists have
concentated their R&D efforts over the last several years on
improving the efciency of solar cells to make them more
competitive with conventional power-generation
As mentioned earlier, the two most prominent criteria in
determning the best PV cells are from the economic and
efciency perspectives. Even though both play important
roles, it is the eficiency that is of higher regard here.
One important factor involved in the calculation

eficiency for various types of cell

is radiation of the sun or
tered as iradiance (solar radiation intensity) or insolation.
Another very important factor dealing with PV and radiation
is the response of various PV types to the solar energy
wavelength, also know as the energy gap response of
photovoltaic [1].
The conversion eficiency is the maximui output power,
expressed as a percentage of the input power, given by the
equation below:
, = P max( lrradiance ' Area) ' 1 00
where Pmax is the maximum output power (kWh)
Irradiance is the solar radiation intensity (kWhlm2)
Area is the total area of the PV cell or module (mz)
Typical Recorded Cost
Efciency Laboratory USDIW
Monocrstalline 12-18% 27% 5.5 - 6
Polycrystal1ine 11-14% 18.6% 4.5
AmoThous Silicon 6-7% 12.7% 3
Copper Indium
8% 12.5% 3
Cadmium Telluride 7-8% 16% 3
Gallium Arsenide 25.7% 26.5% 5
Efciency. "I
Si C<.
In _Alb
3r Od
D J I J I Eerg O'p (. V)
0 O. 1.0
t U
2.0 t 2 . .
Go. S.
Fig. 7. A calculated cure of the r.,imum eficiency that Can be obtained
as a function of the energy gap for semiconductor materials made into a PV
cell and illuminated with the solar ,pectum outside the atmo,phere [I J.
Even by numerously mentioning the goodness of
photo voltaic technology, one Call1lOt help but wonder its
usage and applications in.' the world throughout and the
benefits it brings to humankind.
A. Photovoltaic Applications
PV technology is used in almost every corer of te
world, ranging from applications of water pwnping in rral
areas to solar-powered heater in developed counties. Te
following links will provide inforation on some of the
major applications areas where photovoltaic plays, or will
play, a major role [5].
, .'
(1): Remote Resideltial
Around the world, there are more than 100,000 of-grid
residential PV systems, as of 1996, including tens of
thousands of vacation homes in Scandiavia. These systems,
typically from one module to one kilowatt, comprise the PV
modules, batteries, charge contollers, and assorted loads
(lights, radiolTV, refrigerator).
(2): Village Power
In developing economies, there are hundreds of
thousands of villages that currently have no access to electric
power or that use diesel generators, which are expensive to
fuel, dimcult to maintain. llId cnvirollmentally hllrlllful. I'V
village power systems provide electricity for domestic,
community, or industial activities. PV can also be used with
diesel generators as part of hybrid systems.
(3): General Stand-Alone Systems
Photovoltaic systems can supply electricity in areas
where there is no electric grid, or where connecting to that
grid would be too expensive. Water pumping applications
using PV systems can replace hand pumps or large engine
powered water pumping systems. In
many pumping systems,
no batteries are required, as the pumped water storage
provides that function. Communications: PV systems have
been powering remote communications systems, such as
microwave repeaters, television and radio transmitters and
receivers, telephone systems, and small radios, since the mid
19605. These systems provide reliable, low-maintenlnce
power for these remote syslcms.
(4): Hybrid Power Systems
Hybrid systems tyicall y include some combination of
PV, wind, and diesel generators, along with controlling
electronics and battery storage. The reasons for these
systems include making maximum use of the available
resources (wind and sun), serving critical 10lds (telemctry
and communications), and supplementing eXlsl!ng
equipment (reducing the duty cycle of an exist ing diesel
(5).' Space Power System.
Photovoltaic systems have been used to power satellites
aud space probes siuce the Vauguard l laullch in 1958. The
critical issues in space power systems are weight and
reliability: weight, because of the high cost of boosting
equipment into space; and reliability, because servicing a
system is difcult (impossible, until recently) and expensive.
Because these issues are more importlnt than cost, the
technologies are typically more exotic than those used in
terrestrial systems.
B. Photo voltaic Benefits
Why use PV generated power, one may ask. There are
numerous reasons that beft the question. Firstly, PV
generated power ofers advantages over diesel generators,
primary (one-time use) batteries, and even conventional
utility power. These benefls make PV the power of choice
in more and more cases every day.
One of the most important characteristics of PV is its
reliabilit. PV cells were originally developed for use in
space, where repair is extremely expensive, if not
impossible. PV still powers nearly every satellite circling the
earth because it operates reliably for long periods of time
with virtually no maintenance.
In addition to that, PV technology has low operating
costs. PV cells use the energy from sunlight to produce
electricity the - fuel is free. With no moving parts, the cells
require little upkeep. These low-maintenance, cost-efective
PV syslems. arc idclll lor supplying puwer to
communications stations on mountain tops. navigational
buoys at sea, or homes far from utility power lines.
This system is also bcncllcialto the ellvironll1cnt. BeclIse
they hurn no fuel and have no moving parIs, PV systel11s arc
clean and silent. This is especially important where the l1ain
ltcratives lor ubtinillg power JHI light Je fl'lIl11 diesel
generators and kerosene luntems. In short, il prduces 110
noise, harmful emissions or polluting gasses. As we become
more aware of "greenhouse gases" and their detrimental
effects on our planet, clean ener
y alteratives like PV
become more important than ever.
Fig. 8. As we begin 10 realize and respecl Ihe Ii'agilily "r our pll.wr,
ecosystem, clean power choiceS like I'V become extremely importanl
(I'hulo: NASA) [RI.
Il')j 211111
PhOlovollQic Cell. Solar Thermol
Ycr anu M."IL.Ic> ' ('"Ikch", "
(Peak KilowoHs) (Tou,""d Square I'cet)
1993 6,137 6.557
1994 8,363 7.222
1995 11,188 7,136
1996 13.016 7.162
1997 12.561 7,7SQ
1998 15,069 7.396
1999 21,225 8,046
2000 19,839 7.857
2001 36,}1O 10.349
Total 143,708 ().484
Total shipments minus export shipmenls,
Notes: TOlals may not equal sum of componenls due (0
independent rounding. Tot.1 shilmenls include Ihose made
to u.s. Territories.
Source: (8)
Furthermore, PV ofers modularity. A PV system can he
constructed to any size based on energy requirements. The
ower of a PV system can enlarge or move it if his or her
energy needs change, For instance, homeowners can add
modules every few years as their energy usage and financial
resources grow.
In addition to that, PV is equally' well suited for
installation in high density areas of the industrialized world,
for instance in afuent neighborhoods as well as in remote
areas of developing countries where electricity is not readily
available. This is attributed to its mobilit and wide range of
Finally, the constrction costs are very low in relative to
other kinds of generating system. PV systems are usually
placed close to where the electricity is used, re
uiring much
shorter power lines than if power is brought in from the
utility grid. Moreover, using PV eliminates the n. eed for a
step-dow transformer from the utility line. Less wiring
means lower costs, shorter construction time, and reduced
pennitting paperwork, particularly in urban areas [8].
PV technology applies not only to the world but also to
our country, Malaysia. Though its growth or research is not
as rapid as in other countries, it is an important renewable
resource that is very viable in the near fture.
A. The Malaysian Scenario
In Malaysia, the use of PV is still in its experimental
stages. In the solar market, in which equipment and
components required for the upcoming solar grid-connected
pilot-project include photovoltaic solar panel modules with
capacity of up to 5kWp. This project is part of a promnent
four-year UDP (United Nations Development Program)
initiative know as the Industrial Energy-Efciency
Improvement Project and is beig fnded via a US$20.79
million grant. It is being implemented by an independent
research organization known as the'Malaysia Energy Center.
The potential for solar 'power is great, given that
Malaysia receives between 4.5 to 8 hours of sunshine per
day and, as an equatorial country, a substantial amount of
solar radiation year round. Malaysia receives about
5.SkWhm of solar insolation per day and an average daily
solar energy intensity level - on a horizontal surface - of
about 19.8MJ/m2. These figures confirm an abundant source
of sola. energy, much of which' can be' haressed for a
variety of uses.
Should the results of eforts to comercialize solar
energy take hold, there will be a further need for this te of
equipment in Malaysia. If housing developers can promote
and include solar PV as an option for electricity generation
in new houses, it is envisaged that around one million houses
would install grid-connected solar PV systems by the year
2020. End-user targets would likely include high-income
households and commercial building developers.
Admittedly, it is difcult to ascertain the chances of these
renewable energy teclologies making serious headway in
Malaysia. Nonetheless, companies that are involved in the
planing stages surely have the pqtential to reap rewards in
the future [31.
B. Future and Development
The economic viability of developing large-scale
photo voltaic system continues to vary depending on such
influences as global oil prices, the effects of weather on both
electricity generation and use, and the electicity market.
The cost of PV has moved downward by a factor of more
than 20 since the frst deployment over 40 years ago, and
this trend is expected to continue.
PV use is increasing anti is expected to grow for several
decades. Today the installed generation capacity by
photovoltaic in the world is more than 500 megawatts, and
this number is growing yearly. This projected growth will
provide numerous economic opportunities for domestic
producers of PV's. The obstacles to large-scale deployment
ofPV systems lie primarily in fnancing and energy policies.
Two billion people in the world live without electrical
power because the cost of sering them with a conventional
power grid system is prohibitive. Line costs, tyically US
$20,000-$30,000 per kilometer, are the heaviest burden,
usually accounting for 80-90 percent of cost of a rural
electrifcation project. Hence, PV system can be
economically attractive alternatives for remote, off-grid
locations, and can be sited virtually anywhere on earth.
For many years PV has held important roles in the
developing world, particularly in areas such as
telecommunications, marine beacons, railway signaling, and
cathode protection of pipelines. The existing challenge is to
apply PV to the provision of energy to rral homes for
lighting, refrigeration, and television. In many pars of the
world, systems of approximately 100 watts provide basic
lighting for large portions of the population. In these
regions, PV is considered the most economical and
environmentally sound method of providing electricit.
Rural electrification programs in many countries, including
Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico, for example, are using
renewable energy to meet electricity demand. In the United
States, the Hopi and Navajo Nations are provided basic
electrifcation with PV systems.
Fig. 9. ln the village of Cacimbos in the state of Ceara, Brazil, people are
several miles from a utility grid. So, each of these homes has a 50-watt PV
system to provide enough power for two fluorescent lights
(Photo: R.
Taylor, NREL) [8],
Applications of PV in the area of corrununications are
already substantial, and continued growth is expected in the
coming years. These applications include signal relay
stations, data tansmssion systems for weather sensors,
remote monitoring systems for high voltage power lines,
natural gas lines, water systems, and voice tansmissions
from emergency telephones. The expanding use of fber
optics, along with the increasing commercial importance of
the "Information Infrastructure," is also leading to increased
use of PV for remote power and back-up emergency power.
One-way to achieve frher cost reductions in
photovoltaic cells is to use considerably less semiconductor
material per cell. There are limits to how much reduction
can be made to the amount of crystalline silicon in a
conventional cell because it is not that strong an absorber of
There are other possible semiconductors that can be used
in very thin layers (thin fm photovoltaic cell technology).
These do away with the conventional wafer approach to
making photovoltaic cells and instead use deposited layers
less than 1 mcron (one thosand of a millimeter) on a
material such as glass, steel or plastic.
For now, thin fm photovoltaic cells do not have as high
effciency as crystalline silicon cells. The cost today per
peak watt is about the same. Their cost per square meter of
photovoltaic module is about one third the cost of crstalline
silicon technology. If the eficiency of thin flm photovoltaic
cells can be raised to the same level as that of today's
crystalline silicon cells, then the economics will be about
right for large scale use as ac power producers.
At present, most of the larger size photovoltaic systems
are based on crystalline silicon photovoltaic cell technology,
and this will continue to be so for some years [7].
The move of using PV in Malaysia as a source of energy
is becoming more and more crucial. It offers many
advantage which is important in terms of feasibility and
environmental-friendliness. Today, solar-generated
electricity seres people living in the most isolated spots on
earth as well as in the center' of our biggest cities. First used
in the space program, PV systems are now both generating
electricity pump water, light up the night, activate switches,
charge batteries, supply the electric utility grid, and more.
Whether you are a homeowner, farmer, planner, architect, or
just someone who pays electric utility bills, PV may already
touch your life in some way and will continue to do so for
many more years to come. If the
issue of eficiency and
economy can be resolved amicably, PV is set to take over
the world as the main energy-generating resource.
[1] Fred C. Treble, Genera/ing Electricity Fom The Sun, A. A M
Sayigh, Editor-In-Chief, Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1991.
[2J Roger Messenger, Jer Ventre, Ph% vol/aic Systems Engineeri"g,
Florida: eRe Press, 2000.
[3] Hagler BaHley: Overview, Malaysian Energy Efciency and
Renewable Energy, [Available]
http://stanegi,{)3 75c.hl ml
[4) Perihelion's Watts Up, An Overview of PholoYoltaic Technology,
[AvailableJ 11ttp:llw,",.illlakel1cws,convsolariigI1l1
(5) Photovoltaic Power, PY Frequently Asked Questions, [Ayailable]
[6] Photovoltaic Systems, PY Research and Development, [Available)
[7J Solar Energy, Photovoltaic Technologies, [Available)
hllp:!lwww<swilcncu-<Il.orgISEEI Prcscnlaliull'PDf'Vcrsioll/vass.pdf"
[8] US Department of Environment, Solar Energy, Energ Eficiency and
Renewable Energy, [Available) http://www.cia.doc.g<v
[9] IEE Guide for Preparatio" of a Formalled Technical Work for the
Power Engineering Sociely, IEEE Power Engineering Society
Publ ication Guide, New Jersey.
N.M. Maricar (S'87, M'03) is a lecturer at Faculty of
Electrical Engineering, Kolej Universiti' Teknikal Kebangsaan
Malaysia, Melaka, Malaysia.
E Lee, HK Lim, MF Sepikt, MRM Maskum, MF Ahmad,
MA Mahmood (S'04) are fnal year students at Faculty of
Electrical Engineering, Kolej Universiti Teknikal Kebangsaan