Solar concentrator modules in silicon

Solar concentrator with reduced cost and greater effective collection area


Over the years, a variety of systems have been devised for the collection and utilization of solar energy. Many of these systems are quite efficient in collecting and storing solar energy which may supplement or replace more expensive systems.

However, a primary problem remains. That problem is the initial cost of making and installing an efficient solar energy collecting system. If a solar energy collecting system is very expensive to make and install, such high CapEx is undesirable since the potential user must wait too long to amortize this cost before realizing any savings. Another factor limiting the widespread adoption of solar panel cells is radiant heating of the cells which reduces efficiency.

One technique that has been developed to increase the efficiency of solar cells and thermal converters is to collect and focus solar energy onto the solar cells or thermal converters by means of a solar concentrator. While the use of solar concentrators results in economic savings by increasing the effective collection area of a solar cell or thermal converter, concentrators to date have been costly to manufacture and add appreciably to the weight of the solar energy collector system (driving up costs of supporting infrastructure).

To address the above, Navy scientists have developed a concentrator module from a wafer precursor resulting in reduced costs and increased effective collection area of a solar cell or thermal converter. The method utilizes a wafer precursor composed of a semiconductor substrate. Horizontal grid lines (silver, or silver paste) are applied to the wafer by silk screening along with aluminum or silver bus bars which attached by solder. The grid lines and bus bars may be referred to as top grid structures and the number of these structures depends on the sunlight concentration ratio of the system. The designed concentration ratios are between 17 and 50.

The reduction in capital expenditure is directly related to the fact that the wafer precursor can be used in concentrated photovoltaic (PV) systems which require far fewer wafers per Watt. For example, when used in a concentrated PV system operating at twenty times (20×) concentration of sunlight, the number of wafers can be reduced by roughly 20×.

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