Collaboration Aims to Harness the Energy of 2,000 Suns
- High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal system able to convert 80 percent of the collected solar energy
- System can deliver electricity, potable water and cool air in remote locations
- Design based on a low-cost, large dish-like concentrator and micro-channel cooled high performance photovoltaic chips suitable for mass-production
Today on Earth Day, scientists have announced a collaboration to develop an affordable photovoltaic system capable of concentrating solar radiation 2,000 times and converting 80 percent of the incoming radiation into useful energy. The system can also provide desalinated water and cool air in sunny, remote locations where they are often in short supply.
A three-year, $2.4 million (2.25 million CHF) grant from the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation has been awarded to scientists at IBM Research (NYSE: IBM); Airlight Energy, a supplier of solar power technology; ETH Zurich (Professorship of Renewable Energy Carriers) and Interstate University of Applied Sciences Buchs NTB (Institute for Micro- and Nanotechnology MNT) to research and develop an economical High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system.
Based on a study by the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association and Greenpeace International, technically, it would only take two percent of the solar energy from the Sahara Desert to supply the world’s electricity needs*. Unfortunately, current solar technologies on the market today are too expensive and slow to produce, require rare Earth minerals and lack the efficiency to make such massive installations practical.
The prototype HCPVT system uses a large parabolic dish, made from a multitude of mirror facets, which are attached to a sun tracking system. The tracking system positions the dish at the best angle to capture the sun’s rays, which then reflect off the mirrors onto several microchannel-liquid cooled receivers with triple junction photovoltaic chips — each 1x1 centimeter chip can convert 200-250 watts, on average, over a typical eight hour day in a sunny region.