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:
Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), along with Sandia National Laboratory (SNL) will develop a prototype printer with the potential to enable economical, high-volume manufacturing of micro-PV cell arrays. This project will focus on creating a printing technology that can affordably manufacture micro-CPV system components. The envisioned printer would drastically lower assembly costs and increase manufacturing efficiency of micro-CPV systems. Leveraging their expertise in digital copier assembly, PARC intends to create a printer demonstration that uses micro-CPV cells or “chiplets” as the “ink” and arranges the chiplets in a precise, predefined location and orientation, similar to how a document printer places ink on a page. SNL will provide micro-scaled photovoltaic components to be used as the “ink,” and the PARC system will “print” panel-sized micro-CPV substrates with digitally placed and interconnected PV cells. This micro-chiplet printer technology may reduce the assembly cost of micro-CPV systems by orders of magnitude, making them cost competitive with conventional FPV. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the printer, the project team will investigate two types of backplanes (electronically connected PV arrays arranged on a surface): one with a single type of micro-PV cell, and one with at least two types of micro-PV cells.
If successful, innovations from PARC’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.
Expanded use of clean, renewable solar power could reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy.
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.
Technologies developed under MOSAIC could offer a cost-effective option for clean, locally produced power across all market sectors.