Energy Innovations - Sunflowers for Solar Farms

Posted by Hitendra Patel on Oct 11, 2019 12:12:00 PM

A solar array that is easy to assemble and maintain, making solar farms more cost effective in most parts of the world.

Innovation

The Sunflower highly concentrated photovoltaic (HCPV) system is pre-assembled and requires minimal maintenance to lower costs and deliver better efficiency (using triple junction cells) than traditional CPV systems

Sustainability

Highly concentrated PV systems can already yield 1MW for every 5 acres of solar farm area, making solar farms an important component of a clean and sustainable energy source for the future

Results

The Sunflower system has an industry-leading 29% conversion efficiency by focusing the suns rays with a concentration ratio of 1200:1 compared to 500:1 by traditional CPVs; its triple junction cells are 2.4 times less costly

Drivers

ELECTRIC UTILITIES:

Increasing demand for modular approaches to solar farms that are grid-tied and efficient over the long term.

INCENTIVES AND STANDARDS:

Government incentives and the rapid adoption of renewable energy standards make solar farms more viable.

IDEALAB AND FOUNDERS:

The founders of Idealab, begun in 2001, are mission-driven to deliver cost-effective, grid-competitive solar electric power.

Barriers

TECHNOLOGY EFFICIENCY:

CPV and other systems efficiencies have hovered in the 15-20% range with associated high costs per watt delivered.

UPFRONT COSTS:

Highly customized solutions bring high costs in the absence of buy backs and/or standardized modules.

UNPROVEN TECH AND SKEPTICISM:

There is skepticism about the economics of solar power absent financial incentives as well as concern about new replacement technologies.

Enablers

HCPV TECHNOLOGY:
Increasing the concentration of solar rays from 500 : 1 up to 1,200 : 1 provides a major cost reduction when combined with high efficiency triple junction cells (38%more efficient than silicon cells)

SYSTEMS INTEGRATION:

The Idealab approach to systems integration across a large range of disciplines includes advanced optics, cell thermal management, tracking systems design and robotic assembly.

MODULAR MANUFACTURING:

Low profile 10-module building blocks called “frame sets” are designed to
minimize shipping and installation costs while maximizing flexibility for
rooftop or graded land installations.

Impact

SOLAR FARM INDUSTRY:

Energy Innovations has been able to increase the concentration of its CPV
system to 1,200:1, thereby requiring less than half the number of high cost cells used by competing systems.

ENERGY COST AND BALANCE:

The improvements in the cost of HCPV will significantly increase the ability of solar energy farms to become a major part of the overall energy equation in many parts of the world.

LOW COST + HIGH EFFICIENCY:

October 2009 announcement of worldleading 29% conversion efficiency is double the average of flat plate systems — combined with the focus on low costs, solar farms will become truly cost competitive

What's Next?

Continued improvements in triple junction cell efficiency combined with cost reduction programs in place are projected to continue to advantage this system relative to traditional thin film solar and crystalline silicon PV over the long term.

Topics: Sustainable Innovation