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Clean Power concentrated photovoltaic collector

Published on July 28th, 2008 | by Michelle Bennett

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Innovative Solar Cell wins R&D 100 Award

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July 28th, 2008 by
 
concentrated photovoltaic collectorR&D magazine covers the newest, nerdiest gear from inventors and scientists. The R&D 100 awards are hailed as the “Oscars of Invention” by the Chicago Tribune. The prestigious award helps push the most promising inventions into the market. Other winners include specialized microscopes and super-hydrophobic coatings.

EMCORE is the proud producer of inverted metamorphic (IMM) solar cells, which are already used on land and in space. The IMM technology recently made an in-orbit efficiency record of 33%. EMCORE is a reputable and successful semiconductor company. Their solar technology has been on my radar for a while now.

Developed in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Vehicle Systems Directorate of the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the IMM design is comprised of a novel combination of compound semiconductors that enables a superior response to the solar spectrum as compared to conventional multi-junction architecture. Due to its unique design, the IMM cell is approximately one fifteenth the thickness of the conventional multi-junction solar cell and will enable a new class of extremely lightweight, high-efficiency, and flexible solar arrays for space applications. (via news release)

These cells, and their soon-to-be second generation, are good for more than satellites in space. When used with EMCORE’s concentrated photovoltaic systems, they might just push for efficiencies as high as 45%.

So what’s the big deal? For years silicon panels have held the record in solar cell efficiency. These multi-junction solar panels are right behind them but cost less. They’re also much lighter and thinner, which reduces transportation and installation costs.

The terrestrial market for cheap, high efficiency solar systems, especially systems that can scale up for utilities, is already booming around the globe. EMCORE has been developing affordable, scalable CPV systems since 2004, with their first commercial installation in May of 2008. With years of trial and error already behind them, they’re positioned to become one of the major players in CPV within the next few years. Pairing that technology with their award-winning solar cells could give them an edge in a young but growing solar industry.

Though CPV promises to produce a lot of energy while avoiding notoriously expensive materials, there’s always a catch. CPV works best when pointed directly at the sun, so expensive tracking mechanisms are used to shift the entire solar array throughout the day. There’s also the small matter of heat, which can melt some solar cells if you’re not careful. Nevertheless, EMCORE seems confident that they have overcome these obstacles to bring an economically lucrative product to market.

Their second generation IMM solar cells, promising even higher efficiency, are slated to hit the market by 2010. In the meantime, the first generation is already giving silicon cells a run for their money.

Related Articles:

Image via the EMCORE website

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About the Author

is an environmentalist who loves to write. She grew up across the southeastern USA and especially love the Appalachian mountains. She went to school in the northeast USA in part to witness different mindsets and lifestyles than those of my southern stomping grounds. She majored in English Lit. and Anthropology. She has worked as a whitewater rafting guide, which introduced her to a wilderness and the complex issues at play in the places where relatively few people go. She also taught English in South Korea for a year, which taught her to take nothing for granted.



  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    Edit: corrected the CPV errors. Much better!

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    Edit: corrected the CPV errors. Much better!

  • http://cleantechnica.com MichelleBennett

    Enrico,

    Thanks for pointing out that typo! I’m not sure how it spread through my entire article, but I’ve writted about CPV technologies before… must have been an editing mistake on my part. Apologies.

    You’re right to point out the higher cost of multi-junction cells. Without concentrators they wouldn’t be very practical for most solar applications. But several companies are racing to put their CPV products on the market. Most of them have already made their first commercial installations. I’m crossing my fingers for a utility scale deal in the near future.

  • http://cleantechnica.com MichelleBennett

    Enrico,

    Thanks for pointing out that typo! I’m not sure how it spread through my entire article, but I’ve writted about CPV technologies before… must have been an editing mistake on my part. Apologies.

    You’re right to point out the higher cost of multi-junction cells. Without concentrators they wouldn’t be very practical for most solar applications. But several companies are racing to put their CPV products on the market. Most of them have already made their first commercial installations. I’m crossing my fingers for a utility scale deal in the near future.

  • http://www.brightfuture.us Tim

    Indeed, Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) systems are very cost effective and efficient way of harnessing the sun’s energy.

    For more on SolFocus CPV: “Cost-Effective Solar Technology”.

  • http://www.brightfuture.us Tim

    Indeed, Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) systems are very cost effective and efficient way of harnessing the sun’s energy.

    For more on SolFocus CPV: “Cost-Effective Solar Technology”.

  • http://is.gd/Fo2?232423586 Christina Bacon

    Color me not impressed.

  • http://is.gd/Fo2?232423586 Christina Bacon

    Color me not impressed.

  • Enrico

    It’s CPV, not CVP. Also, the multi-junction cells actually cost more money per surface area than thin film or others, but cost less as a solution when concentrated using fresnel lenses or mirrors,(i.e. concentrated photovoltaics CPV). This is how such high efficiencies are possible, using less land than traditional approaches.

    youtube solfocus for good detail

  • Enrico

    It’s CPV, not CVP. Also, the multi-junction cells actually cost more money per surface area than thin film or others, but cost less as a solution when concentrated using fresnel lenses or mirrors,(i.e. concentrated photovoltaics CPV). This is how such high efficiencies are possible, using less land than traditional approaches.

    youtube solfocus for good detail

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