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DuPont opens Delaware photovoltaics lab

Improvements in photovoltaic technology will play a key role in meeting the world’s energy needs as the global population soars to more than 9 billion people over the next 40 years, DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman said Monday.

At a ceremony announcing the opening of a new photovoltaic applications lab at DuPont’s Chestnut Run facility, Kullman said the expanding population will significantly increase global demand for alternative energy sources.

The challenge for DuPont, officials said, is making that energy affordable.

“It has to be an economic reality to help the world solve these issues,” Kullman told an audience that included DuPont employees and customers, Gov. Jack Markell and U.S. Rep. Michael Castle.

Research at the new lab, which will work in collaboration with DuPont photovoltaic labs in Switzerland and China, is aimed at using new materials and engineering processes to make harvesting and using energy from the sun more efficient and less expensive. The ultimate goal is to achieve “grid parity,” where the cost of electricity from solar energy systems is equal to that for electricity from conventional energy sources such as fossil fuels.

“Today, there’s still a pretty big gap,” said David Miller, president of DuPont Electronics and Communications.

Miller said DuPont is taking a three-pronged approach toward improvements in solar energy applications: increasing the energy efficiency and power output of photovoltaic cells, extending the durability and life of photovoltaic modules so that savings from the upfront costs can be realized, and reducing manufacturing and installation costs.

“All three of these components are key to helping the PV industry achieve grid parity, which is the important tipping point for a truly sustainable industry,” said Steve Freilich, director of materials science and engineering for DuPont.

DuPont officials have said they expect sales of photovoltaics to grow by more than 50 percent this year and exceed $1 billion in 2011, a year ahead of schedule.

Via The Associated Press