Boeing to Provide Solar Concentrators for Australian Outback

High-efficiency, high-priced solar cells from Spectrolab Inc. — normally marketed exclusively for space-based satellite operations — will soon be installed in remote Australian communities desperate for power.

The Boeing Company, which owns Spectrolab, signed a multi-million dollar contract to supply concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) cell assemblies to Solar Systems Pty. Ltd. of Hawthorn, Victoria, an Australian company that produces renewable solar energy. The solar cell assemblies will be capable of generating more than 11 megawatts (MW) of electricity enough to power 3,500 average-sized homes. Deliveries will begin later this year. This contract with Solar Systems Pty. continues a relationship between the two companies. In April, Spectrolab and Solar Systems bought the world’s first full-scale ultra high efficiency 35-kilowatt solar generator online in Australia. The system created a new benchmark for solar concentrator systems both in system efficiency and cost, and showed great promise for the future of renewable energy. “The breakthrough demonstrated by this fully operating, full-scale system shows the potential for CPV to dramatically change the economics of solar power. We expect this to be the first commercial phase of a very large and valuable relationship,” said Solar Systems’ Managing Director Dave Holland. Solar Systems’ concentrators resemble a satellite dish with curved reflecting mirrors shaped to concentrate sunlight onto the solar cells. A sun-tracking mechanism allows electricity to be produced from morning to late afternoon. Small, remote communities are using a number of concentrator dishes in “solar farms” for energy during the day and switching to diesel generators at night. A significant advantage of concentrator systems is that fewer solar cells are required to achieve a specific power output. Large areas of semiconductor materials now can be replaced with lower cost concentration devices. The higher cost of ultra high-efficiency multi-junction cells is offset by the need for fewer cells. Because multi-junction cells are so efficient, only a fraction of the cell area is required to generate the same power as crystalline silicon or thin-film flat-plate designs. David Lillington, president of Spectrolab, said the company has been a leader in space-based solar cells and is the world’s leading producer of space and terrestrial concentrating solar cells. “We have leveraged our expertise in space photovoltaic products and created terrestrial concentrating solar cells with record-breaking efficiencies averaging above 35 percent,” added Lillington. “We are now partnering with the best of industry and making great strides in reducing the cost of solar energy to homes and businesses worldwide.”
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