Tracking the sun during the day, capturing more sunlight! Concentrated Photovoltaics achieve conversion efficiency of 41.4%

When it comes to industrial solar energy, the photovoltaic module might immediately bring to your mind. 
There are two types of solar power in power generation technology: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Photovoltaic (PV). Today we are going to introduce the new technology, Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV), which combines the advantages of CSP and PV. CPV uses lenses and curved mirrors to focus sunlight onto small, but highly efficient, multi-junction solar cells, also it uses solar tracker system and a cooling system for even greater efficiency.

Recently, the CPVMatch research consortium, which is funded by the European Union and led by Germany’s highly respected Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy Research, announced that its latest Concentrated Photovoltaic Module has broken through the solar conversion efficiency record of 41.4 %. There are two key points to the CPV module: the use of achromatic lenses that concentrate incoming sunlight on miniaturized multi-junction solar cells. And the installation of a two-axis tracking system that follows the sun’s path and can capture more sunlight as much as possible during the day.

Cited: Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy Research

“In CPVMatch, we have addressed all production steps for concentrator modules starting from the materials, through cell fabrication and production systems, and up to the challenges facing module manufacturing,” says Dr. Gerald Siefer, project head and group leader of III-V Cell and Module Characterization at Fraunhofer ISE. 
In Fraunhofer ISE’s press release, they claim that the partners in the CPVMatch project have achieved two primary results: 
1. By employing new materials, processes and manufacturing equipment, they were able to create innovative cell architectures for multi-junction solar cells and optimize the production of four-junction solar cells.
2. By modifying the optics and using the achromatic lenses, they have improved the design of high concentration CPV modules.
The combination of four-junction solar cells with achromatic lenses has achieved the new record conversion efficiency of 41.4 % for a 122 cm2 CPV module.

“We are extremely pleased about these results that pave the way for further efficiency increases in the concentrator technology,” says Dr. Andreas Bett, director of Fraunhofer ISE. “Photovoltaics is booming worldwide, and we see great potential for this particularly efficient module technology. It significantly decreases the use of resources for energy conversion per unit area and thus contributes to more sustainability.”

The perfect interaction between multi-junction solar cells and optical components lead to high conversion efficiency; but it is not enough to set records in the laboratory if the results cannot be translated into commercial products at an affordable price. Now the hard work of moving this new technology out of the lab and into the industry will begin, and that is the big challenge the researchers is facing.

Due to its bulky size, CPV modules are unlikely installed on rooftops any time soon. But if they can provide far higher efficiency than conventional solar panels, they could make a significant contribution to utility scale solar in the future, which is more effective and economical. 
According to calculations, if building a 10 MW CPV power plant, the electricity price per watt is about 1.50~2.30 USD. In contrast, the price of CPV power is quite cheaper than traditional ones. But CPV plant needs to occupy a very large area, and the installation cost is much higher than conventional power plants. However, if researchers can make progress in reducing the size of the module and the installation costs, with the development of the new technology, CPV would be much more efficient in the industry.

 CPVMatch project
Headed by Fraunhofer ISE, a consortium of research institutes and industry partners from Germany, Italy, Spain and France have worked on new solutions over the past 3.5 years to this end. The industrial implementation of highest efficiencies for concentrator PV modules and thus the reduction of the gap between research results and industry production were the focus of the CPVMatch project.
References: 
Steve Hanley. (November 26th, 2018). Concentrated Photovoltaics Achieve Solar Conversion Efficiency Record Of 41.4%. Retrieved from https://cleantechnica.com/2018/11/26/concentrated-photovoltaics-achieve-solar-conversion-efficiency-record-of-41-4/

2018-12-26