New 29% efficient solar panel combines space-grade PV cells with concentrated glass cover
Swiss company Insolight has reached 29% efficiency for its unique solar panel, as verified by the Solar Energy Institute of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (IES-UPM). Its patented optical system concentrates light onto an array of tiny space-grade multi-junction PV cells. Compared to traditional non-concentrated PV modules with efficiencies around 19%, Insolight’s pre-production module has been validated at 29% by IES-UPM, two years after the first lab prototype.
“For the rooftop market, the real challenge is not only to increase efficiency but to do so in a way that combines cost-effectiveness, ease of installation and durability,” said Laurent Coulot, CEO of Insolight.
The Insolight panel’s protective glass embeds a grid of lenses which concentrate light by several hundred times. Under this optical layer, direct sunlight is focused on high-performance space-grade solar cells. The unit also follows the sun, by mechanically shifting cells horizontally by a few millimeters each day to keep aligned with the glass lenses. The whole system is encased in a frame, similar to standard solar panels, which keeps mechanical parts protected.
Insolight’s product has the same form factor as standard panels and the company said it can be mounted in industry-standard tilt angles on commercial rooftops or the ground.
In addition to the 29% efficiency validation from IES-UPM, modules have also been tested in real-life conditions for a whole year on a pilot installation at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), successfully enduring extreme heat, winter conditions and storms.
The Insolight concept was first tested on a lab prototype by Fraunhofer ISE in 2016, setting a record for a rooftop technology.
“Over the last two years, our team has brought the product from a lab prototype to a full-size solar panel, connected to the grid and monitored 24/7. Our system has been extensively tested, and we are now preparing an industrialization strategy for large-scale production,” said Mathieu Ackermann, CTO of Insolight.
Insolight said its optical lenses can be assembled as an overlay on top of a standard PV panel. This hybrid approach is effective in cloudy conditions, where concentration efficiency decreases, to maintain energy harvesting under diffused sunlight.
Insolight is now discussing with several solar manufacturers to license its technology.
“Our technology involves a few extra assembly steps, which can be added at the end of existing production lines, taking leverage of production capabilities already in place,” said Coulot.
News item from Insolight