Solarsphere, one of the semifinalists at this year`s Cleantech Open, claims their new hybrid photovoltaic/concentrated solar power system could capture as much as 72% of the sunlight that falls onto it. This is thanks to their patented SolarConcetrator that by itself reduce the surface are required for solar cells by a factor of 1000 times.
Image copyright Matt Hagen
The fact that their “sphere” is made up cheap materials – half of it comes from post-consumer recycled plastic – makes the new invention cost-effective with traditional PV systems. And on top of this, it could also capture the solar thermal energy that is generated within the device.
The system consists of a reflector that is based on traditional telescope designs. By using a parabolic dish reflecting sunlight onto a smaller dish, energy concentrated in a single beam can be captured by a triple junction PV chip.
“With that much concentration we can generate energy in two ways. First, we produce electricity with 40 percent efficiency, as high as the most efficient units commercially available today. But that’s just the photovoltaics part. With a 1,000 times concentration there’s a lot of heat generated. So we capture that thermal energy in a liquid.” Says the founders Corbyn Jahn, COO, and Adam Burwell, CEO, both students of Renewable Energy Engineering at Oregon Tech, in an interview with GeekWire.
The team is currently early in the process of designing their system. They are contemplating to run the hot liquid through a Rankine cycle or Stirling engine in order to elimante the intermittence of standard solar power. They are also open for capturing the heat energy in other ways.
Jahn and Burwell are currently in the process of finding an investor for seed capital and take their prototype to a pilot system.