How does a cost-competitive photovoltaic system that is able to concentrate sunlight 2000 times and then capture 80% of the concentrated energy sound? Pretty good, right? Such a system is currently being developed by researchers at IBM Research, Airlight Energy, ETH Zurich, and Interstate University of Applied Sciences Buchs NTB, after winning a three-year $2.4 million grant from the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation.
And in addition to generating electricity, the system can itself desalinate water and provide air-conditioning, useful features for the sunny and remote regions that the system is designed for.
An economical High Concentration Photovoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system, that in addition to supplying electricity can desalinate water and provide air conditioning, is the complete package as far as many regions of the world are concerned.
The prototype system makes use of a large parabolic dish, composed of a number of mirror facets, which are coordinated to a sun tracking system. The system automatically repositions itself to the optimum angle for power generation. The sunlight that hits the mirrors is reflected off of them onto a number of microchannel-liquid cooled receivers with triple junction photovoltaic chips. Every one of these 1×1 centimeter chips “can convert 200-250 watts, on average, over a typical eight hour day in a sunny region.” And there are hundreds of these chips in the design, providing a total of about 25 kilowatts of electrical power.