Recently solar power researchers have created a concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) system with embedded micro tracking that is capable of producing 50 percent more energy per day than the standard silicon solar cells.
This changing economic landscape has put a premium on high efficiency. In contrast to silicon solar panels, which currently dominate the market at 15 to 20 percent efficiency, concentrating photovoltaic focus sunlight onto smaller, but much more efficient solar cells like those used on satellites, to enable overall efficiencies of 35 to 40 percent.
Solar cells used to be expensive, but now they’re getting really cheap. As a result, the solar cell is no longer the dominant cost of the energy it produces. The majority of the cost increasingly lies in everything else like the inverter, installation labor, permitting fees, etc.all the stuff we used to neglect.
Current CPV systems are large the size of billboards and have to rotate to track the sun during the day. These systems work well in open fields with abundant space and lots of direct sun.
New solar technology has created a high-efficiency CPV system. To do this, the researchers embed tiny multi-junction solar cells, roughly half a millimeter square, into a sheet of glass that slides between a pair of plastic lenslet arrays. The whole arrangement is about two centimeters thick and tracking is done by sliding the sheet of solar cells laterally between the lenslet arrays while the panel remains fixed on the roof.
Recently a prototype with a single microcell and a pair of lenses that concentrated sunlight produced more than 600 times. The CPV system has reached 40 percent efficiency, in contrast to the 17 percent efficiency of the silicon cell. This embedded tracking CPV technology would be perfect for places with lots of direct sunlight.
Major challenges still lie ahead in scaling this system to larger areas and proving that it can operate reliably over the long term. With the right engineering, we can be looking at a step-change in efficiency that could be useful in applications ranging from rooftops to electric vehicles, anywhere it’s important to generate a lot of solar power from a limited area.
Major strength of CPV lies in higher efficiencies for direct normal irradiance , Low CapEx for manufacturing infrastructure enabling faster growth , Increased and stable energy production throughout the day due to tracking and more opportunities for cost effective local manufacturing versus certain weaknesses such as it may require frequent cleaning to mitigate soiling losses, depending on the site , Bankability and perception issues due to shorter track record compared to PV and lack of technology standardization