Concentrated Photovoltaic Technology from the Outside - A Case Study
The popularity of PV or photovoltaic solar panels make them quite familiar terms with the general populace particularly in California, the country’s leading producer of solar-power generated electricity. Some may also be familiar with solar thermal systems that make use of solar energy to create heat to generate power through turbines. However, many still do not see solar energy as viable alternatives to produce electricity due to high start-up costs and other issues related to the manufacture and use of photovoltaic panels.
A new technology is emerging that will change all that. Called concentrated or concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology, the system makes use of lenses or mirrors to concentrate solar energy onto tiny solar cells that are highly efficient in converting solar energy into electricity. Such arrangement is meant to address the number one problem with the use solar PV systems – the expensive silicon-based solar panel.
Although many journals have already reported significant claims on how effective this technology is on a laboratory setting, the challenge remains on whether this technology will be viable in the commercial market. Several companies have taken up this challenge and are now making significant headway by bringing out CPV panels out into the market.
Understanding Concentrated Photovoltaic Technologies and Its Benefits
As mentioned earlier, the difference in CPV technologies with traditional solar PV cells is on the way sunlight is concentrated up to 650 times onto high performance solar cells. This will increase the generated electricity which can be maximized further with the use of tracking systems where the CPV panels can be mounted.
CPV panel efficiency considers the panels as a whole and is much lower than cell efficiency. Efficient CPV panels can reach 25%, which is typically twice the efficiency of traditional PV cells. As this efficiency increases the cost for harnessing solar energy decreases resulting to less raw materials required, lower manufacturing costs and reduced land utilization.
The following discusses some of the additional benefits that can be realized with the use of concentrated photovoltaic solar panel technologies.
* Dual Land Use: CPV panels are mounted on elevated tracking systems which can allow utilization of the land underneath for planting crops.
* 95% Recyclable: unlike traditional PV panels, CPVs use glass and aluminum as their two main materials which can then be recycled. Useful life of solar panels is typically 30 years.
* ROI in six+ months: early technologies used to manufacture solar panels make use of manufacturing technologies require as much energy as they can produce over a 20-year period, resulting to poor net energy gain. These new CPVs are much more efficient that users can realize payback within a short period of 6 months.