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​Concentrator photovoltaics: staying ahead of the market on a high-potential technology

CPV Solar Concentrator

Published on 6 October 2016

Liten’s research in the field of concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) aims to very substantially increase PV system yields by developing optics capable of concentrating the sun’s rays onto very-high-conversion-yield PV cells. To further increase the intensity of the light captured, CPV modules are installed on trackers that follow the course of the sun. As they can only capture direct sunlight, these systems are intended mainly for use in high-sunlight regions of the world. CPV yields, currently at around 35%, are much higher than those of traditional PV solar panels, offering about 18% on average. However, the sticker price is also higher. This is due in part to the very low penetration of CPV in current production systems, currently representing just 1% of the total worldwide energy production capacity.

We have been conducting CPV research since 2010, making advances that have garnered the attention of the entire CPV community. Our researchers bring knowledge from a variety of disciplines—thermics, optics, semiconductor physics, assembly processes, and energy management—and leverage Liten’s renowned expertise in power electronics for example, to improve UPS designs and maintain high yields across the CPV value chain.
 
CPV conversion yields are increasing by around one percent per year, making the technology particularly attractive for certain operating conditions. And at Liten we are continuing to build on these promising developments. Our work with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute and France-based Soitec has led to record yields of 46%, for example. And we continue to take part in international research programs set up to significantly improve today’s technology.

BENEFITS

Technologies to pave the way for industrial scale-up of CPV

  • Advanced characterization across the value chain, from cell to UPS
  • Liten has acquired a unique ensemble of characterization equipment that can be used to evaluate, quantify, and analyze cell, module, and UPS performance at any time and in real-world operating conditions. The challenge is to achieve reliable, reproducible performance throughout the equipment’s lifetime and provide manufacturers and investors with solid information they can use to make the best technology choices for their projects. These advanced characterization capabilities have been used successfully by two of our industrial partners, helping them gain several yield points in real-world operating conditions.
  • Design capabilities across the value chain
  • Our researchers are poised to develop innovative manufacturing and assembly processes that focus on enhancing performance and keeping costs down, with the ultimate goal of making the technology more attractive. Approaches include modifying equipment currently used in the PV industry to reduce CPV sticker prices.

PROJECTS

  • ​CEA researchers at the French National Institute for Solar Energy (INES) are participating in the NGCPV (New Generation of Concentrator Photovoltaic Cells, Modules, and Systems) project. The project consortium includes research institutes from Europe and Japan. The project has resulted in CPV cells, modules, and equipment offering high performance, with yields of 45% at cell level and 35% at module level. 

  • ​In May 2015, the CEA and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany formed a partnership to pursue their past cooperation via a virtual joint lab. The goal of the lab is to achieve the most advanced level of performance in the field of CPV, building on the recent record yield of 46% achieved by the CEA, Fraunhofer, and Soitec in 2014. These advances will facilitate CPV penetration of new markets. 

FACTS AND FIGURES
  • Around 40 researchers
  • 5 patents


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