A new combination of high quality solar cells used in space satellites and advanced sunlight concentrating lenses have resulted in solar panels with a 29% record efficiency it could be available for home use in 2022.
The key to commercializing the “planar optical micro-tracking” technology will be to control the costs of the manufacturing process, which the developer of these cells, Insolight, is currently studying.
Insolight cells first set a laboratory testing record two years ago, with a 36% efficiency. Since, the system has been standardized for series production with an efficiency of 29% – well above the 17% to 19% performance of competing standard silicon cells – as confirmed by the Institute of Solar Energy at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (IES-UPM), according to Insolight.
These encouraging results in the laboratory bode well for great success if it can be manufactured at a cost low enough for commercial use, increasing its efficiency once launched on the market.
Insolight panels are made from high quality gallium arsenide solar cells, which degrade more slowly than silicon in space. The most efficient solar cells currently in production are multi-junction photovoltaic cells which use a multi-layered combination of gallium arsenide, indium phosphide, gallium and germanium to capture more energy from the solar spectrum.
Solar panels for spacecraft use rectangles of solar cells that cover almost 100% of the area visible to the sun of the solar panels. Standard commercial rooftop solar panels use circles of cells that cover approximately 90% of the panel. The Insolight panel uses much less than either, but uses focus lenses that focus a large circle of light into a small cell.
Thanks to optical concentration, only less than 0.5% of the total surface is required for optimum performance. This allows the use of very efficient solar cells for the general market. The panel’s protective glass incorporates a grid of lenses that focus light several hundred times, Insolight explains.
Insolight modules have been tested in real conditions for a full year in a pilot installation of the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and have successfully withstood heatwaves, winter conditions and storms. It was first tested in a laboratory prototype by the Fraunhofer ISE in 2016, setting a record for roofs. Insolight was founded in 2015.
“Over the past two years, our team has taken the product from a laboratory prototype to a true solar panel, connected to the grid and monitored 24/7. Our system has been extensively tested and we are currently preparing an industrialization strategy for large-scale production. “
Mathieu Ackermann. Insolight Technical Director.
“Our technology involves a few additional assembly steps, which can be added at the end of existing production lines, taking advantage of existing production capabilities.”
Laurent Coulot, CEO of Insolight.
More information: insolight.ch
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