Low Cost Concentrating Photovoltaic System

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In summary, this invention can greatly reduce PV system cost. A low cost PV system is self sustainable and makes the cost of renewable PV energy comparable or lower than conventional sources. The market potential is enormous. The current Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV) systems have not achieved their intended goals in reducing the PV system cost. The main reason is the high cost of the precision 2-D tracking which becomes the major cost component. My invention is to replace the precision 2-D with a simple and imprecision 1-D tracking, thus greatly reducing the total installed system cost.

This invention is the first ever proposed by utilizing the special property of small frame linear Fresnel lens and a special tracking arrangement. When properly designed and made, the high collecting efficiency is maintained within a few percent year around. In the 2-D precision tracking, the normally heavy module plus the whole weight of the 1st tracking mechanism is riding on the 2nd tracking gear. By switching from 2-D to 1-D, we only need 1 set of tracking plus the module and supporting structure are greatly simplified and weight reduced. In the imprecision 1-D concentrator, one set of motor and sensors is used to drive as many as 8 panels (modules). The massive pedestal and the pivoted mounting used in precision 2- D tracking are reduced to a single frame and two simple bearings. As a result, no heavy equipment is needed for the installation. All the simplifications allow more automated low cost production and installation.

The proposed system is very cost effective with high efficiency silicon cells. The total system cost is reduced far below current flat panel PV systems. In the precision 2-D tracking, the two motors are in constant motion, back and forth to track the Sun. In contrast, the motor of the imprecision 1-D tracking moves in one direction and runs only one complete cycle per day. This simplified tracking motion greatly improves reliability, a great concern for 2-D precision concentrators. We have done extensive computer simulations and built a small model to demonstrate the basic operation. The small model with targeted concentrating ratio works very well, is self powered and tracking the Sun automatically. Only the geometry of the linear Fresnel lens and the special tracking arrangement are novel. All the other components/parts are commercially available. Thus the system can be easily manufactured by convention production methodology. The production and including the installation can be highly automated to further reduce the installed system cost. Only the current commercial Fresnel lenses need to be optimized for future commercial productions. The setup of the proposed invention is shown in Illustration 1 and the small model in Illustration 2. With sufficient funding, this invention can be easily and quickly developed into a massive market. When widely deployed, the low cost 1-D concentrating PV will have a great impact on our renewable energy supplies.

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  • ABOUT THE ENTRANT

  • Name:
    Charles Ih
  • Type of entry:
    individual
  • Profession:
    Educator
  • Number of times previously entering contest:
    1
  • Charles's favorite design and analysis tools:
    Optical and electronic design software
  • Charles's hobbies and activities:
    Solar Energy and sustainable technologies
  • Charles belongs to these online communities:
    LinkedIn
  • Charles is inspired by:
    The cost of solar energy, PV (Photovoltaic), is still too high. The CPV (Concentrating Photovoltaic) has the potential to greatly reduce the cost. The cost of current CPV system is not any lower than of the most common flat panel system. The proposed concentrator design can drastically reduce the cost.
  • Software used for this entry:
    Optical and electronic design solfware
  • Patent status:
    pending