Point Load Power releases latest version of flat rooftop solar tracker

Point Load Power announced the launch of its flagship technology, PV Booster Gen 2, a rooftop tracking system designed to maximize solar production from monofacial and bifacial solar panels, producing up to 70% more energy per panel compared to fixed-tilt rooftop mounting solutions.

This advancement in solar performance means that building owners, occupants and project integrators investing in rooftop solar can install 50% less solar panels than required with fixed-tilt and still achieve the same annual savings, increasing return on investment (ROI) by 40% or more.

PV Booster has been engineered to solve the challenges of weight and wind that have prevented solar tracker deployments on rooftops, until now. This dynamic rooftop tracking solution meets the requirements of UL 3703 and the wind loading requirements of ASCE 7-16, and has been tested and certified by CSA U.S., a Nationally Recognized Test Lab allowing PV Booster to deploy on most flat rooftops across the United States.

Solar project integrators looking for a competitive advantage in the C&I solar market have already ordered thousands of PV Booster units. Option One Solar in California’s Apple Valley has completed its first project using the PV Booster.

“We vetted the PV Booster offering thoroughly, even went so far as to install a showcase system on the roof of our headquarters to validate the performance gains,” said Scott Thomas, president of Option One. “Almost immediately we saw that the performance is so significant that this will rapidly accelerate our growth plans in the C&I space.”

Option One Solar is fully trained to resell, install and service PV Booster in addition to receiving other partner benefits including sales support, supply allocations and volume pricing.

PV Booster Gen 2 trackers are now being delivered to customers through Point Load’s U.S.-based supply chain. This highly-anticipated solution has received accolades year-over-year from industry peers since its invention, garnering Solar Power World’s Top Products of 2017 and 2019 as well as its Editor’s Top Product Picks 2018 and winning the Cleanie’s 2019 Platinum Award for Product of the Year and Startup of the Year at the Solar Power International annual conference in 2019.

Six-junction solar cell sets two world records for efficiency

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have fabricated a solar cell with an efficiency of nearly 50%.

The six-junction solar cell now holds the world record for the highest solar conversion efficiency at 47.1%, which was measured under concentrated illumination. A variation of the same cell also set the efficiency record under one-sun illumination at 39.2%.

“This device really demonstrates the extraordinary potential of multijunction solar cells,” said John Geisz, a principal scientist in the High-Efficiency Crystalline Photovoltaics Group at NREL and lead author of a new paper on the record-setting cell.

The paper, “Six-junction III-V solar cells with 47.1% conversion efficiency under 143 suns concentration,” appears in the journal Nature Energy. Geisz’s co-authors are NREL scientists Ryan France, Kevin Schulte, Myles Steiner, Andrew Norman, Harvey Guthrey, Matthew Young, Tao Song, and Thomas Moriarty.

To construct the device, NREL researchers relied on III-V materials — so called because of their position on the periodic table — that have a wide range of light absorption properties. Each of the cell’s six junctions (the photoactive layers) is specially designed to capture light from a specific part of the solar spectrum. The device contains about 140 total layers of various III-V materials to support the performance of these junctions, and yet is three times narrower than a human hair. Due to their highly efficient nature and the cost associated with making them, III-V solar cells are most often used to power satellites, which prize III-V’s unmatched performance.

On Earth, however, the six-junction solar cell is well-suited for use in concentrator photovoltaics, said Ryan France, co-author and a scientist in the III-V Multijunctions Group at NREL.

“One way to reduce cost is to reduce the required area,” he said, “and you can do that by using a mirror to capture the light and focus the light down to a point. Then you can get away with a hundredth or even a thousandth of the material, compared to a flat-plate silicon cell. You use a lot less semiconductor material by concentrating the light. An additional advantage is that the efficiency goes up as you concentrate the light.”

France described the potential for the solar cell to exceed 50% efficiency as “actually very achievable” but that 100% efficiency cannot be reached due to the fundamental limits imposed by thermodynamics.

Geisz said that currently the main research hurdle to topping 50% efficiency is to reduce the resistive barriers inside the cell that impede the flow of current. Meanwhile, he notes that NREL is also heavily engaged in reducing the cost of III-V solar cells, enabling new markets for these highly efficient devices.

Recently discovered molecule could significantly boost solar cell power

In the search for more efficient solar cells, researchers in Japan have found that a recently discovered molecule, important in a plant’s ability to photosynthesise sunlight, could also reap rewards for solar cells.

Among photosynthetic pigments, chlorophyll is the most crucial one as it captures light energy and converts photons into electrons as a source of energy. While there are different types of chlorophyll molecules, one called ‘Chl f’ has only recently been discovered, with little known of its location or how it functions.

Now, researchers led by Prof Tatsuya Tomo from the Tokyo University of Science have published a study revealing new details about this mystery, with a discovery that could potentially help to make solar cells more powerful.

What the scientists knew so far was that Chl f is ‘far-red shifted’, which means that this molecule absorbs far-red light from the lower end of the light spectrum. By studying the alga where the molecule was first discovered, it was shown to be located at the periphery of one of two photosystems (photosystem I). A photosystem is a special structure that mediates photosynthesis.

‘Never been seen before’

They also found that far-red light causes structural changes in the photosystem, which are accompanied by the synthesis of Chl f in the algae, leading them to conclude that Chl f causes these structural changes in photosystem I.

This was the first finding to explain how the molecule works.

“This indicates that Chl f functions to harvest the far-red light and enhance uphill energy transfer,” Tomo said. “We also found that the amino acid sequence of photosystem I was altered so as to accommodate the structure of Chl f.”

Speaking of the importance of this discovery, Tomo said it could allow us to better mimic the process of photosynthesis in an artificial system to capture solar energy.

“About half of the solar energy that falls on the Earth is visible light, and the other half is infrared light,” he said.

“Our research puts forth a mechanism that can use light on the lower energy spectrum, which has never been seen before. Our findings show how to improve the efficiency of energy transfer in photosynthesis and, by extension, also provide important insights into artificial photosynthesis.”

Breakthrough solar cell sets two world records for efficiency

Scientists at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have published findings to Nature Energy on a new solar cell concept with enormous potential. The six-junction cell achieved a solar conversion efficiency of 47.1pc under concentrated illumination, creating a new world record. A second record was also achieved with efficiency of 39.2pc under one-sun illumination.

To construct the device, researchers used so-called III-V materials, which have a wide range of light absorption properties. The name is derived from their position on the periodic table.

Each of the cells’ six photoactive layers – referred to as junctions – are designed to capture light from a specific part of the solar spectrum. In total, the device contains 140 layers of various III-V materials, each three times narrower than a human hair.

Due to their highly efficient nature and the cost associated with making them, III-V solar cells are most often used to power satellites. However, according to the paper’s co-author, Ryan France, this powerful cell design could be well-suited for use in concentrator photovoltaics.

Use a lot less semiconductor material

“One way to reduce cost is to reduce the required area,” he said. “And you can do that by using a mirror to capture the light and focus the light down to a point.

“Then you can get away with a hundredth or even a thousandth of the material, compared to a flat-plate silicon cell. You use a lot less semiconductor material by concentrating the light. An additional advantage is that the efficiency goes up as you concentrate the light.”

France added that it is “very achievable” to soon exceed 50pc efficiency. However, 100pc efficiency can never be reached due to the fundamental limits imposed by thermodynamics.

According to the lead author of the paper, John Geisz, in order to surpass 50pc efficiency the restrictive barriers inside the cell that impede the flow of current will need to be reduced.

Earlier this year, researchers in Japan found that a recently discovered molecule, important in a plant’s ability to photosynthesise sunlight, could also reap rewards for solar cells. The discovery could allow us to better mimic the process of photosynthesis in an artificial system to capture solar energy.

ESB and Harmony Solar agree €30m deal to build Irish solar farms

Ireland’s solar capacity is set to grow over the next decade, with a new project that aims to power 230,000 homes by 2030. ESB and Irish-owned company Harmony Solar have confirmed a deal, initially worth €30m, that will see the pair develop solar projects that can deliver 1,000MW of electricity.

Phase one of the development will see Harmony Solar’s existing planned sites of 300MW in Wexford and Kildare upgraded in capacity to 1,000MW.

“We already have an established position in the solar market in Ireland, with both ground-mounted and rooftop solar projects under development,” said Jim Dollard, executive director for ESB Generation and Trading.

“This agreement with Harmony Solar represents another significant milestone, bolstering the company’s solar portfolio and our wider ambition in developing renewable electricity generation projects of scale.”

Growth of solar

Chair of Wexford-based Harmony Solar, John McEneaney, added: “Irish-owned and with a shared organisational ethos and value system, ESB is now a strategic partner in bringing our current solar projects with planning permission to realisation, and ultimately in delivering on our commitments to our landowners.

“We are looking forward to working together and we are confident that this partnership will further add to our ability to deliver solar power to even more Irish homes in the future.”

While wind energy remains the dominant source of renewable electricity generation in Ireland, solar energy’s presence is set to grow significantly over the coming years.

In January, it was revealed that a partnership between Shannon Energy and Danish firm Obton would see the pair spend €300m to develop solar farms in Ireland. The farms are set to produce a total of 500MW of electricity using specially manufactured solar cells. Sites in Cork, Galway, Longford, Tipperary and Westmeath have all been selected as likely solar farm locations with a capacity of 150MW.

Elgin in €400m Irish solar farm investment plan

Elgin Energy, a solar energy developer, has said that it plans to spend up to €400m developing solar farms in Ireland over the next five years.

The company, which has been in Ireland since 2015, has a pipeline of about 500 megawatts (MW) of projects that it hopes to deliver into the energy system by the mid-2020s.

The 500MW of solar projects will provide enough clean electricity to power more than 140,000 homes, 220,000 electric vehicles annually and offset 275,000 tonnes of carbon per year.

Ronan Kilduff, managing director of Elgin Energy in Ireland, said that it was important Ireland developed a mix of renewable power projects and did not just focus on wind.

“We can’t just keep delivering wind,” he said. “In this new decarbonised energy environment, it has to be a portfolio approach, which is wind, solar and storage.

“That portfolio approach will deliver the new energy economy. We are focused on solar and don’t work with any other technology.

“In terms of continuing investment in Ireland, we are continuing to develop projects. We are continuing to take the view that delivers projects for the 2030 targets.”

Kilduff said he does not expect any of the projects to be grid-connected until 2022.

In June of this year, the first auction of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is scheduled to take place.

The scheme invites renewable electricity projects to bid for capacity and receive a guaranteed price for electricity they generate.

Solar will be afforded a 10pc carve-out in the first auction. Kilduff said Elgin Energy had several projects that were eligible for this scheme.

Elgin is aiming to participate in the upcoming round with about 80MW worth of projects, representing an investment of up to €60m.

Kilduff added that the money the company uses to develop solar farms in Ireland would be coming from investors such as utility companies or pension funds. He said he was talking to these investors on a “monthly basis” for all the projects across Ireland, the UK and Australia – including with Danish utility Orsted and senior investment funds like Blackrock.

Last month, Elgin closed its fourth fundraising round for £4.7m (€5.5m) in partnership with Cantor Fitzgerald Ireland.

The funding was obtained from Irish investors and will provide capital to complete the development of 250MW of solar projects in the UK.

The fundraising round was the second successful raise completed in partnership with Cantor Fitzgerald Ireland.

The first round with Cantor Fitzgerald was closed in June 2019 and raised £4.3m (€5m).

Kilduff is planning another funding round for UK projects. It is planning to raise another €5m through Cantor Fitzgerald’s Ireland channels before the summer.

“Ireland is the only market we are participating in an auction,” he said. “That’s huge. The market is maturing; we need to move beyond subsidy.

“We were in this subsidy-driven piece, but we now are competing head-on with fossil fuels.”

Elgin Energy has delivered operational solar farms across the UK with an output of more than 230MW. This portfolio includes Scotland’s largest operational solar farm and Bann Road in Northern Ireland, which has a capacity of 46MW.

As of 2020, Elgin Energy has successfully obtained planning permission for 650MW across 55 projects.

A further two gigawatts worth of projects are at late stages of development across the UK, Ireland and Australia.

A breakthrough approaches for solar power

The Met Office says it has probably been the sunniest April on record and the solar power industry reported its highest ever production of electricity (9.68GW) in the UK at 12:30 on Monday 20 April.

With 16 solar panels on his roof Brian McCallion, from Northern Ireland, has been one of those benefitting from the good weather.

“We have had them for about five years, and we save about £1,000 per year,” says Mr McCallion, who lives in Strabane, just by the border.

“If they were more efficient we could save more,” he says, “and maybe invest in batteries to store it.”

That efficiency might be coming. There is a worldwide race, from San Francisco to Shenzhen, to make a more efficient solar cell.

Today’s average commercial solar panel converts 17-19% of the light energy hitting it to electricity. This is up from 12% just 10 years ago. But what if we could boost this to 30%?

More efficient solar cells mean we could get much more than today’s 2.4% of global electricity supply from the sun.

Solar is already the world’s fastest growing energy technology. Ten years ago, there were only 20 gigawatts of installed solar capacity globally – one gigawatt being roughly the output of a single large power station

By the end of last year, the world’s installed solar power had jumped to about 600 gigawatts.

Even with the disruption caused by Covid-19, we will probably add 105 gigawatts of solar capacity worldwide this year, forecasts London-based research company, IHS Markit.

Most solar cells are made from wafer-thin slices of silicon crystals, 70% of which are made in China and Taiwan.

But wafer-based crystalline silicon is bumping pretty close to its theoretical maximum efficiency.

The Shockley-Queisser limit marks the maximum efficiency for a solar cell made from just one material, and for silicon this is about 30%.

However, combining six different materials into what is called a multi-junction cell can push efficiency as high as 47%, under concentrated light.

Another way to break through this limit, is to use lenses to focus the sunlight falling on the solar cell.

But this is an expensive way to produce electricity, and is mainly useful on satellites.

“Not anything you would see on anybody’s roof in the next decade,” laughs Dr Nancy Haegel, director of materials science at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

The fastest improving solar technology is called perovskites – named after Count Lev Alekseevich von Perovski, a 19th Century Russian mineralogist.

These have a particular crystal structure that is good for solar absorption. Thin films, around 300 nanometres (much thinner than a human hair) can be made inexpensively from solutions – allowing them to be easily applied as a coating to buildings, cars or even clothing.

Perovskites also work better than silicon at lower lighting intensities, on cloudy days or for indoors.

You can print them using an inkjet printer, says Dr Konrad Wojciechowski, scientific director at Saule Technologies, based in Wroclaw and Warsaw. “Paint on a substrate, and you have a photovoltaic device,” he says.

With such a cheap, flexible, and efficient material, you could apply it to street furniture to power free smartphone charging, public wifi, and air quality sensors, he explains.

He’s been working with the Swedish construction firm Skanska to apply perovskite layers in building panels.

According to Max Hoerantner, co-founder of Swift Solar, a San Francisco start-up, there are only about 10 start-up firms in the world working on perovskite technology.

Oxford PV, a university spin-off, says it reached 28% efficiency with a commercial perovskite-based solar cell in late 2018, and will have an annual 250-megawatt production line running this year.

Both Oxford PV and Swift Solar make tandem solar cells – these are silicon panels which also have a thin perovskite film layer.

Since they’re made from two materials, they get to break through the Shockley-Queisser limit.

The silicon absorbs the red band of the visible light spectrum, and the perovskite the blue bit, giving the tandem bigger efficiency than either material alone.

One challenge is when “you work with a material that’s only been around since 2012, it’s very hard to show it will last for 25 years,” says Dr Hoerantner.

Insolight, a Swiss startup, has taken a different tack – embedding a grid of hexagonal lenses in a solar panel’s protective glass, thus concentrating light 200 times.

To follow the sun’s motion, the cell array shifts horizontally by a few millimetres throughout the day. It is a bid to make concentrated solar cheap.

“The architecture of these conventional concentrated photovoltaics is very costly. What we’ve done is miniaturise the sun tracking mechanism and integrate it within the module,” says Insolight’s chief business officer David Schuppisser.

“We’ve done it in a cheaper way [that] you can deploy anywhere you can deploy a conventional solar panel,” he says.

The Universidad Politécnica de Madrid’s solar energy institute measured Insolight’s current model as having an efficiency of 29%. It is now working on a module that is hoped to reach 32% efficiency.

Current silicon technology is not quite dead, though, and there are approaches to make tiny, quick wins in efficiency. One is to add an extra layer to a cell’s back to reflect unabsorbed light back through it a second time. This improves efficiency by 1-2%.

Another is to add an outside layer, which lessens losses that occur where silicon touches the metal contacts. It’s only a “small tweak”, says Xiaojing Sun, a solar analyst Wood Mackenzie research – adding 0.5-1% in efficiency – but she says these changes mean manufacturers only need to make small alterations to their production lines.

From such small gains – to the use of concentrated solar and perovskites – solar tech is in a race to raise efficiency and push down costs.

“Spanning this magical number 30%, this is where the solar cell industry could really make a very big difference,” says Swift Solar’s Max Hoerantner.

Six-junction solar cell sets two world records for efficiency

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have fabricated a solar cell with an efficiency of nearly 50%.

The six-junction solar cell now holds the world record for the highest solar conversion efficiency at 47.1%, which was measured under concentrated illumination. A variation of the same cell also set the efficiency record under one-sun illumination at 39.2%.

“This device really demonstrates the extraordinary potential of multijunction solar cells,” said John Geisz, a principal scientist in the High-Efficiency Crystalline Photovoltaics Group at NREL and lead author of a new paper on the record-setting cell.

The paper, “Six-junction III-V solar cells with 47.1% conversion efficiency under 143 suns concentration,” appears in the journal Nature Energy. Geisz’s co-authors are NREL scientists Ryan France, Kevin Schulte, Myles Steiner, Andrew Norman, Harvey Guthrey, Matthew Young, Tao Song, and Thomas Moriarty.

To construct the device, NREL researchers relied on III-V materials — so called because of their position on the periodic table — that have a wide range of light absorption properties. Each of the cell’s six junctions (the photoactive layers) is specially designed to capture light from a specific part of the solar spectrum. The device contains about 140 total layers of various III-V materials to support the performance of these junctions, and yet is three times narrower than a human hair. Due to their highly efficient nature and the cost associated with making them, III-V solar cells are most often used to power satellites, which prize III-V’s unmatched performance.

On Earth, however, the six-junction solar cell is well-suited for use in concentrator photovoltaics, said Ryan France, co-author and a scientist in the III-V Multijunctions Group at NREL.

“One way to reduce cost is to reduce the required area,” he said, “and you can do that by using a mirror to capture the light and focus the light down to a point. Then you can get away with a hundredth or even a thousandth of the material, compared to a flat-plate silicon cell. You use a lot less semiconductor material by concentrating the light. An additional advantage is that the efficiency goes up as you concentrate the light.”

France described the potential for the solar cell to exceed 50% efficiency as “actually very achievable” but that 100% efficiency cannot be reached due to the fundamental limits imposed by thermodynamics.

Geisz said that currently the main research hurdle to topping 50% efficiency is to reduce the resistive barriers inside the cell that impede the flow of current. Meanwhile, he notes that NREL is also heavily engaged in reducing the cost of III-V solar cells, enabling new markets for these highly efficient devices.

This article is more than 1 month old New renewable energy capacity hit record levels in 2019

Almost three-quarters of new electricity generation capacity built in 2019 uses renewable energy, representing an all-time record. New data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) shows solar, wind and other green technologies now provide more than one-third of the world’s power, marking another record.

Fossil fuel power plants are in decline in Europe and the US, with more decommissioned than built in 2019. But the number of coal and gas plants grew in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In the Middle East, which owns half the world’s oil reserves, just 26% of new electricity generation capacity built in 2019 was renewable.

The world has invested about $3tn in renewables over the past decade, according to Irena, but annual investments must double by 2030 to tackle the climate emergency.

“While the trajectory is positive, more is required to put global energy on a path with sustainable development and climate mitigation,” said Francesco La Camera, director general of Irena. “At this challenging time, we are reminded of the importance of building resilience into our economies.

La Camera said the huge spending planned by governments in response to the coronavirus pandemic must support green initiatives rather than fossil fuels. “In responding to today’s crisis, governments may be tempted to focus on short-term solutions,” he said. “Yet distinctions between short-, medium- and long-term challenges may be deceptive. The pandemic shows that delayed action brings significant economic consequences.”

The global oil market is in turmoil, hit by collapsing demand due to Covid-19 lockdowns and a savage price war between Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US. La Camera said: “Renewable energy is a cost-effective source of new power that insulates power markets and consumers from volatility.” Solar and wind power are now the cheapest form of electricity in two-thirds of the world.

The Irena data shows the increase in new renewable energy capacity slowed slightly in 2019 – from 179GW to 176GW – but that new fossil fuel power also fell. The total green energy installed to date around the world grew by 7.6%, with the UK’s total rising 6.1%. The UK is now 11th in the world for installed renewables.

Brazillian solar PV sector to experience combined effect of falling economy and COVID-19, says GlobalData

Increasing import costs, fall in electricity consumption and indefinitely postponed auctions are likely to impact the momentum of the Brazillian solar PV sector, with the annual installed capacity expected to decline to 0.7GW in 2020 from 1.3 GW in 2019, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The weakening of the Brazilian economy due to the pandemic is causing an increase in import costs, which would impact the viability of projects that have secured financing. The slowing of the economy will make it difficult for the developers to close the financing deals and stall the market growth.

A big driver of the solar PV market in Brazil is the A-4 and A-6 auctions, which of late, have resulted in substantial PV capacities being contracted. The government’s strategy, before the COVID-19 outbreak, was to implement the A-4 public auction in the first half of 2020 and the A-6 auction in the second half and to repeat the same in 2021. With the outbreak of the pandemic, these auctions are to be held when normalcy is restored, which is hard to predict.

Somik Das, Senior Power Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Brazillian solar PV developers generally procure most of the PV components from China. With the outbreak of the pandemic, the delivery of the PV components is experiencing delays because of disruption in the global supply chain. Although the country has a domestic manufacturing industry, the manufactured panels are on average 20% more expensive than imports, due to the taxes and the lower production scale in comparison to China.

“Added to this, the Brazillian Real has experienced a significant drop against the USD going from 4.1 in December 2019 to 5.3 in April 2020. The depreciation of the local currency will make it difficult for project developers and owners to seek financing from international capital markets.”