The demand for clean and renewable sources of energy is increasing on a continual basis, for this reason a lot of research is ongoing into making technology used in green energy systems as efficient as theoretically possible. It is well known that photovoltaic solar cells are only really of value in regions of the world where there is a large number of sunny days in a year, for example the worth of installing PV panels in countries such as the UK and Canada is not so great. There is now a new concept in solar energy that may forever change the way we view the potential to generate power from the sun’s rays, this is concentrated photovoltaics, otherwise known as CPV.
A CPV solar cell is a lot more efficient than a regular photovoltaic device. Concentrated photovoltaics is now being promoted as a solution to many of the energy challenges that the world faces, this new system converts light energy to electrical energy in exactly the same ways as does a conventional photovoltaic system. Where the two products differ is that a CPV system utilizes an additional optical device which focuses an increased amount of sunlight onto each individual cell.
The idea that underpins CPV technology has been known about for a long time, but only in the last few years has enough research been carried out into the concept to make it viable commercially. In the last few years, various mega-projects have been commissioned globally that have this new technology at their core.
It is predicted that concentrated photovoltaics will be taken up on massive scale by countries that have already invested heavily in older photovoltaic arrays. For instance, Saudi Arabia and the gulf states are in a prime position to capitalize on their climatic conditions to generate a huge amount of electricity through the setting up of large concentrated photovoltaic plants.
This technology can be thought of in a similar way to a giant mirror or magnifying glass that focuses the sun’s energy. There are three classes that are in use today to describe various CPV systems, these are LCPV (low concentration) where magnification is below 10x, MCPV (medium concentration) between 10x and 150x, and HCPV (high concentration) magnification above 150x.
There are a number of inherent advantages on offer with this new technology. To start with the cell efficiencies are able to top forty per cent, when we consider that most photovoltaic efficiencies still hover at the fifteen per cent mark, this is a big leap forward.
The greater efficiency allows for costs to come down relative to optics, this is important if the technology is to compete with fossil fuels. CPV systems are scalable to almost any size, they can be built to generate a huge amount of power, or just large enough to provide energy to single residence.
With the damage to the world that our reliance on outdated power generation technology now being clear to everyone, finding new technology that does not cause atmospheric pollution and other problems is a priority. Concentrating photovoltaics may just be the answer that society has been looking for.