Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

High-concentration planar microtracking photovoltaic system exceeding 30% efficiency

Abstract

Prospects for concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) power are growing as the market increasingly values high power conversion efficiency to leverage now-dominant balance of system and soft costs. This trend is particularly acute for rooftop photovoltaic power, where delivering the high efficiency of traditional CPV in the form factor of a standard rooftop photovoltaic panel could be transformative. Here, we demonstrate a fully automated planar microtracking CPV system <2 cm thick that operates at fixed tilt with a microscale triple-junction solar cell at >660× concentration ratio over a 140 full field of view. In outdoor testing over the course of two sunny days, the system operates automatically from sunrise to sunset, outperforming a 17%-efficient commercial silicon solar cell by generating >50% more energy per unit area per day in a direct head-to-head competition. These results support the technical feasibility of planar microtracking CPV to deliver a step change in the efficiency of rooftop solar panels at a commercially relevant concentration ratio.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: High-concentration planar microtracking.
Figure 2: Outdoor testing results.
Figure 3: Microcell heating analysis.
Figure 4: Power and energy density.

References

  1. Green, M. A. Commercial progress and challenges for photovoltaics. Nat. Energy 1, 15015 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Lewis, N. S. Research opportunities to advance solar energy utilization. Science 351, 353 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Woodhouse, M. et al. On the Path to SunShot: The Role of Advancements in Solar Photovoltaic Efficiency, Reliability, and Costs Tech. Rep. NREL/TP-6A20-65872 (2016).

  4. Philipps, S. P., Bett, A. W., Horowitz, K. & Kurtz, S. Current Status of Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) Technology Tech. Rep. NREL/TP-5J00-65130 (2015).

  5. Algora, C. & Rey-Stolle, I. Handbook of Concentrator Photovoltaic Technology Vol. 53 (John Wiley, 2016).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  6. Karp, J. H., Tremblay, E. J. & Ford, J. E. Planar micro-optic solar concentrator. Opt. Express 18, 1122–1133 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Hallas, J. M., Baker, K. A., Karp, J. H., Tremblay, E. J. & Ford, J. E. Two-axis solar tracking accomplished through small lateral translations. Appl. Opt. 51, 6117–6124 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Kotsidas, P., Modi, V. & Gordon, J. M. Nominally stationary high-concentration solar optics by gradient-index lenses. Opt. Express 19, 2325–2334 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Duerr, F., Meuret, Y. & Thienpont, H. Tracking integration in concentrating photovoltaics using laterally moving optics. Opt. Express 19, A207–A218 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Tremblay, E. J., Loterie, D. & Moser, C. Thermal phase change actuator for self-tracking solar concentration. Opt. Express 20, A964 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Zagolla, V., Tremblay, E. & Moser, C. Light induced fluidic waveguide coupling. Opt. Express 20, A924 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Duerr, F., Meuret, Y. & Thienpont, H. Tailored free-form optics with movement to integrate tracking in concentrating photovoltaics. Opt. Express 21, A401–A411 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Zagolla, V., Tremblay, E. & Moser, C. Proof of principle demonstration of a self-tracking concentrator. Opt. Express 22, A498 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Price, J. S., Sheng, X., Meulblok, B. M., Rogers, J. A. & Giebink, N. C. Wide-angle planar microtracking for quasi-static microcell concentrating photovoltaics. Nat. Commun. 6, 6223 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Apostoleris, H., Stefancich, M. & Chiesa, M. Tracking-integrated systems for concentrating photovoltaics. Nat. Energy 1, 16018 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Grede, A. J., Price, J. S. & Giebink, N. C. Fundamental and practical limits of planar tracking solar concentrators. Opt. Express 24, 1635–1646 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Wang, B., Price, J. S. & Giebink, N. C. Durable broadband graded-index fluoropolymer antireflection coatings for plastic optics. Optica 4, 239–242 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. King, R. R. et al. Solar cell generations over 40% efficiency. Prog. Photovolt. Res. Appl. 20, 801–815 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Sheng, X. et al. Printing-based assembly of quadruple-junction four-terminal microscale solar cells and their use in high-efficiency modules. Nat. Mater. 13, 593–598 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Lumb, M. P., Fisher, B., Schmieder, K. J. & Meitl, M. Six-junction (6J) microscale concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) for space applications. In 2016 IEEE 43rd Photovolt. Spec. Conf. 3415–3420 (IEEE, 2016).

  21. Luque, A. & Hegedus, S. S. Handbook of Photovoltaic Science and Engineering Ch. 10 (John Wiley, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  22. ESRL Global Monitoring Division—Global Radiation Group (NOAA, accessed 8 November 2016); https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/surfrad/index.html

  23. Würfel, P. & Würfel, U. Physics of Solar Cells: From Basic Principles to Advanced Concepts (Wiley, 2016).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  24. Ghosal, K. et al. Ultrahigh efficiency HCPV modules and systems. IEEE J. Photovolt. 6, 1360–1365 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Miller, D. C. & Kurtz, S. R. Durability of Fresnel lenses: a review specific to the concentrating photovoltaic application. Sol. Energy Mater. Sol. Cells 95, 2037–2068 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Miller, D. C. et al. An end of service life assessment of PMMA lenses from veteran concentrator photovoltaic systems. Sol. Energy Mater. Sol. Cells 167, 7–21 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Reda, I. & Andreas, A. Solar Position Algorithm for Solar Radiation Applications (Revised) NREL/Tp-560-34302 (2008).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was funded in part by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) MOSAIC program, US Department of Energy, under Award No. DE-AR0000626 and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CBET-1508968. J.H. and R.G.N. were supported as part of the Department of Energy ‘Light-Material Interactions in Energy Conversion Energy Frontier Research Center’ under grant DE-SC0001293.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

J.S.P. designed and characterized the optics, designed the test jig for the CPV system, and performed the thermal simulations. A.J.G. wrote the outdoor testing software, and A.J.G. and M.V.L. wrote the tracking algorithm. B.W. designed and deposited all of the optical coatings and simulated the manufacturing and thermal tolerances of the system. Outdoor testing was carried out by all of the aforementioned authors. B.F. and S.B. supplied the 3J μPV cells for field testing, while K.-T.L., J.H., R.G.N. and J.A.R. supplied the GaAs μPV cells for concentrator optical efficiency measurements in the laboratory. G.S.B., X.M. and C.D.R. conceived the module design. N.C.G. supervised the project. J.S.P. and N.C.G. wrote the manuscript in consultation with all of the authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Noel C. Giebink.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that B.F., S.B. and J.A.R. (affiliated with Semprius) are involved in commercializing technologies related to those described here. J.A.R. is a co-founder of Semprius.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figures 1–11. (PDF 2489 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Price, J., Grede, A., Wang, B. et al. High-concentration planar microtracking photovoltaic system exceeding 30% efficiency. Nat Energy 2, 17113 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nenergy.2017.113

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nenergy.2017.113

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing