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Wide-Angle Planar Microtracking Microcell Concentrating Photovoltaics

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)

Wide-Angle Planar Microtracking Microcell Concentrating Photovoltaics

MOSAIC PSU
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,925,175
Location: 
University Park, PA
Project Term: 
02/10/2016 to 08/09/2019
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

The use of flat-panel solar photovoltaics (FPV) is growing dramatically as costs decrease. By contrast, more efficient concentrated PV systems (CPV), which focus direct sunlight onto a single point, have not been widely adopted because of their high cost, large size, and expensive tracking systems. A new approach, micro-scale concentrated photovoltaic systems (micro-CPV), may deliver the cost and size benefits of conventional FPV systems, but with an estimated 50% performance improvement. Micro-CPV modules would use cost-effective trackers and generate more electrical power in a given area. This allows installation on space-constrained residential rooftops and decreased costs for commercial and utility applications. Finally, the MOSAIC systems would have the ability to capture both direct and diffuse sunlight, which could make CPV economical in more geographical regions. These innovations could spur the expanded use of PV to generate clean, renewable energy.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), along with their partner organizations, will develop a high efficiency micro-CPV system that features the same flat design of traditional solar panels, but with nearly twice the efficiency. The system is divided into three layers. The top and bottom layers use a refractive/reflective pair of tiny spherical lens arrays to focus sunlight onto a micro-CPV cell array in the center layer. The micro-CPV arrays will be printed on a transparent sheet that slides laterally between the top and bottom layer to ensure that the maximum amount of sunlight is delivered to the micro-PV cell throughout the day. Advanced manufacturing using high-throughput printing techniques will help reduce the cost of the micro-CPV cell arrays and allow the team to create five-junction micro-PV cells that can absorb a broader range of light and promote greater efficiency. By concentrating and focusing sunlight on a specific advanced micro-PV cell, the system can achieve much higher efficiency than standard FPV panels, while maintaining a similar flat panel architecture.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, innovations from Penn State's project may lower the cost of solar systems by allowing economical, high-volume manufacturing of micro-CPV arrays. Improved systems could encourage greater adoption of solar power in all three primary markets - residential, commercial, and utility.

Security: 

Expanded use of clean, renewable solar power could reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Environment: 

Solar power offers clean power generation with zero emissions. Technologies developed under MOSAIC may also enable solar installations with smaller physical footprints, reducing the environmental impacts of large solar arrays

Economy: 

Technologies developed under MOSAIC could offer a cost-effective option for clean, locally produced power across all market sectors.

Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Michael Haney
Project Contact: 
Prof. Chris Giebink
Partners
University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign
Semprius, Inc.
Release Date: 
8/24/2015