First there was concentrated solar power, and now Semprius, Inc. is pushing the envelope with the introduction of high concentration photovoltaic (HCPV) technology. The company has just won a contract to provide the HCPV modules for a 200-kilowatt, $2.3 million demonstration project at Edwards Air Force Base in California, undertaken by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. If the installation proves cost-effective, it will set the stage for additional installations at other U.S. military bases, as well as applications in the civilian sector.
Bumping up to High Concentration Photovoltaic Power
Concentrated photovoltaic power uses mirrors and other optical devices to focus more solar energy on a smaller surface. That reduces the amount of semiconductor needed to achieve the same result, and since semiconductors are expensive, that can reduce the overall cost of the solar installation.
Semprius stepped it up another level with a system that combines a high concentration factor with solar cells that reach the upper limits of verified efficiency. The system enables Semprius to use pinhead-sized solar cells, which greatly reduces costs.
The cells are manufactured using a printing process called micro-transfer, which is based on chemical reactions.
The concentrating lenses are powerful but also low cost, and the system includes a precise tracking mechanism to keep the solar cells facing the best sun throughout the day.
According to Semprius, overall, its HCPV module has achieved world record efficiencies up to 33.9 percent, at least double the efficiency of several other modules.
As a further boost for the U.S., Semprius is manufacturing its innovative solar technology inside country borders (in Henderson, NC).
Edwards Air Force Base Goes Solar
If Edwards Air Force Base rings a bell, you might recall that it’s been the testing ground for hundreds of breakthroughs in aviation tech, including the breaking of the sound barrier.
Edwards is also the site of three new solar farms constructed and owned by Borrego Solar Systems. Under a power purchase agreement with the company, Edwards provided the land and will buy electricity from Borrego.
All together, the three solar farms have a capacity of three megawatts. That’s just a small chunk of the base’s 30-megawatt peak demand, but it could make a significant difference in the cost of electricity for the base.
Electricity from the farms will help reduce the daytime high-demand charges that Edwards pays for electricity from June to September. That could make a big dent in an electricity bill that ranges from $15 million to $18 million per year.
Image: Courtesy of Edwards Air Force Base
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.