Clean energy specialists in their labs still exceed the theoretical limit on the amount of energy that can be drawn from the sun, but we, who are currently installing solar cells, are struggling with a technology that is many years old. years that is not half of what they see. This new Insolight design could be the one that changes all that.
Insolight is a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, where she has been working on this new approach for a few years and is almost ready to go.
Usually, solar cells capture sunlight on their entire surface, converting it into electricity with a 15-19% yield, which means that about 85% of the energy is lost during the process. There are more efficient cells, but they are usually expensive and special, or use exotic material.
A place where people tend to make no expense is however in space. The solar cells of many satellites are more efficient but, as one could expect, not expensive. But this is not a problem if you only use a small amount and concentrate the sunlight on them; it's Insolight's insight.
Small but very high efficiency cells are arranged on a grid and above it is placed a network of honeycomb lenses which captures light and curve in a narrow beam focused solely on the tiny cells. As the sun moves, the cell layer moves very slightly, keeping the beams on the target. They achieved an efficiency of 37% in the tests and 30% in the designs intended for the consumer. This means one or two times more power than the same surface as ordinary panels.
This certainly adds a layer or two of complexity to the current "mass-produced" boards that are "good enough" but far from the state of the art. But the resulting panels do not differ much in size and shape and do not require placement or specific hardware, such as a concentrator or a special platform. And a recently completed pilot test on an EPFL the roof has been brilliantly adopted.
"Our panels were connected to the grid and monitored constantly. They continued to work without a hitch, despite heat waves, storms and winter conditions, "said Mathiu Ackermann, CTO of the company, in a press release from EPFL. "This hybrid approach is particularly effective when it is cloudy and sunlight is less concentrated, as it can continue to produce energy even under diffuse light rays."
The company is currently in talks with the solar panel manufacturers, which they are definitely trying to convince that integrating this technology into their existing manufacturing lines is not so difficult: "a few extra steps during the development phase. 'assembly', said Ackermann. Expect Insolight signs to be on the market in 2022 – yes, there is still a lot to be done, but maybe we'll all have electric cars too and that will seem like a better deal.