There are many different electricity-producing technologies in the world of photovoltaic panels. One of these is Concentrating Photovoltaic technology (CPV) which uses a small number of high-performance solar cells whose yield is twice as efficient than conventional silicon panels, although at twice the price too.
However, with the continuing fall of the prices of conventional silicon photovoltaic panels, the main stakeholders of CPV have stopped their production lines and closed up shop.
But, that was before the arrival on the market of Insolight, a recently-established Swiss company supported by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), which decided to rethink the CPV technology, reaching a yield of 36.4 %, where solutions currently sold on the market only achieve between 18 and 20%.
They developed a very flat transparent plastic optics system that focuses the sun's rays onto the minuscule surfaces of high-performance cells. The cells, whose yield reaches 42%, are made up of various layers enabling them to capture several different wavelengths. To maximise their exposure to the sun's rays, the researchers used segments measuring a few square millimetres, to which they added a micro-tracking device that captures 100% of the sun's rays, regardless of their angle. The exposure time is therefore increased considerably. The transparent panel is fitted with lenses measuring only a few millimetres that act as a network of small magnifying glasses which move by several millimetres over the course of a day.
Although the system's purchase price is higher, it should rapidly pay for itself due to the higher quantity of energy it produces.
Laboratory tests are conclusive, and Insolight will be conducting a field test in 2017. It hopes to start selling its modules in 2018.