Are Concentrators Finally Gaining Ground?

solar concentrators Are Concentrators Finally Gaining Ground?

Maybe concentrators are no longer the Rodney Dangerfield of solar.

Congentrix Energy announced today that it would build a 30-megawattsolar park for a division of Xcel Energy in Colorado. While solar parksof this size are becoming somewhat common, this deal is unusual in thatthe field will be composed of multi-junction solar panels combined withconcentrators and trackers from Amonix.

That makes it the largest concentrator deal on the market. And more may follow. In April, Amonix raised $130 million.

Concentrators essentially employ lenses (like the Fresnel lens inAmonix’s system), mirrors, trackers (which move a solar panel with thesun) and other technology to artificially increase the amount of lightthat strikes a set of panels or cells. The more light that strikes asolar panel, the more energy it will produce. Concentrated PV systems in a way are light-concentrated solar thermal power plants, but instead of concentrating heat, they concentrate light.

The cells inside the panels used for concentrator systems are oftencomposed of layers of various materials (the multi-junction part). These panels can convert 30 percent or more of the light that strikes theminto electricity. Amonix says its panels are 32 percent efficient and contain cells that are 39 percent efficient. The absolute record for efficiency belongs to a cell constructed ofmultiple layers of silicon, gallium and indium at the University of New South Wales, sporting 43 percent efficiency. Conventional crystallinesilicon cells can convert up to 23 percent of the light that strikesthem into power and may top out at 25 percent.

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