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Energy and Industrial Leadership

Solar Cells for
Hot Climates

Solar cell solutions that can withstand the harsh Saudi heat for long-term performance and deployment.
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Project Description


Solar Energy

Principal Investigator

Stefaan De Wolf


The high heat and constant, direct sunlight found in desert climates diminish solar cell performance. The harsh conditions also cause solar cells to fail sooner, requiring replacement. As a result the solar cells generate less energy and increase cost.
Solar installations in Saudi Arabia are growing. In 2019, Saudi Arabia had over one gigawatt of solar capacity. Aligned with Vision 2030, this will grow to 20 gigawatts of solar capacity. To meet this demand, solar cells need to be more energy efficient and reliable.
KAUST is researching strategies to reduce the impact of “parasitic device heating” – that lowers performance and longevity of solar cells in high heat conditions. Researchers are also looking at different ways of using glass and encapsulation materials to improve reliability. Combined, these efforts will improve the cost efficiency of solar cells.

Longer term, KAUST researchers are:

  • Developing ultra-high performance solar cells using silicon in combination with perovskite
  • Tailoring packaging solutions for long-term deployment
  • Exploring tracking solar panels that also capture light from below
  • Investigating opportunities to combine solar power with other sectors like agriculture