CPV showdown tests solar cell efficiency against altitude

Concentrator Photovoltaic systems made by Daido Steel, a Japanese manufacturer, are installed in CO and Japan to compare solar cells made by Spectrolab of the United States, Sharp of Japan, and Azur Space of Germany.

April 5, 2011 — The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is partnering with major international industrial technology and solar research organizations to test how solar cells from three manufacturers perform in two geographic locations with different lighting conditions. The study aims to determine how the US, Japan, and Germany-made panels perform under different average lighting conditions.

The study’s test sites are in high-altitude and sunny Aurora, CO (US), and cloudy and low-altitude Okayama, Japan. The same cells will be tested in both locations.

NREL teamed with Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) to install 25KW of concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) systems at the Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC) in Aurora, CO. SolarTAC provides a venue for researching, demonstrating, testing, and validating a broad range of solar technologies at the early commercial or near-commercial stage of development.

Concentrator Photovoltaic systems made by Daido Steel, a Japanese manufacturer, are installed at both sites and are designed to compare solar cells made by Spectrolab of the United States, Sharp of Japan, and Azur Space of Germany.

Daido’s CPV design uses a dome-shaped Fresnel lens and concentrator solar cells with efficiencies approaching 40% (module efficiencies of about 30%).

The output of the CPV systems will be compared with conventional silicon PV modules. Concentrator photovoltaic solar systems use lenses to multiply the sun’s intensity, which reduces the area of the solar cells needed to convert sunlight to electricity and improves the efficiency of conventional photovoltaics.

The study will also test high efficiency, advanced versions of the gallium-indium-phosphorous/galium-arsenic solar cells originally invented and developed at NREL, which are now widely used for space exploration applications, such as the Mars rovers. The high efficiencies of these cells, coupled with system designs that greatly reduce the area that needs to be covered by solar cells, have attracted growing interest in recent years. In the modules being tested, solar cells cover 1 one-thousandth of the space covered by similar conventional solar modules.

The project is primarily funded by AIST as a part of the “R&D on Innovative Solar Cells” project, which in turn is funded by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

SolarTAC solar test facility is managed and operated by Midwest Research Institute (MRI) and supports proprietary research, testing and demonstration by member companies, as well as collaborative activities between the members, to support the overall growth of the industry. NREL, a member of SolarTAC, plans to host multiple projects there. For more information, please visit www.solartac.org

AIST is a Japanese research organization in the area of industrial science and technology in Japan.

NEDO was established by the Japanese government in 1980 to develop new oil-alternative energy technologies. Activities to promote new energy and energy conservation technology were subsequently added in 1993. NEDO is now also responsible for R&D project planning and formation, project management and post-project technology evaluation functions in Japan.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC. Visit NREL online at www.nrel.gov

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