Tag Archives: CPV

What We Presented at CPV-7: The Gen 3 Sun Simba Optic

A few weeks ago, someone asked me if we had a dev blog. I said we had one ‘of sorts’, because, in contrast to most dev blogs I’ve seen, such as this one, you won’t find html codes, software algorithms, or physics principles expounded here. Our approach has been to make the technology accessible to technical and non-technical audiences alike.

That said, I realize that some people are genuinely interested in this stuff. And, while IP protection and some degree of secrecy are facts of life for any early-stage technology company, we try to be open and transparent – as much as is possible without compromising our or our partners’ ability to operate. For anyone interested, technical background or not, here are some recent, fairly techy developments for our first product to market, the Sun Simba – a lot of this coming from a poster presentation made at CPV-7 by Dr. Stefan Myrskog, our Director of Science. I’ve also written out the answers to common questions asked to Stefan during his poster pres below.

The main development is that the market-ready version of the Sun Simba has evolved from a square shape to a hexagonal shape. We’ve mentioned the new hex design in some places before, but here will outline some of the considerations that went into the decision, its benefits, as well as other advancements.

1. Increased active area.

Sun Simba Generation 2 versus Generation 3 comparison

The optic’s corners have the longest path length to the optic’s centre, so contribute less to performance. Moving from a square to hex shape reduced the maximum and average path lengths, improving angular performance and increasing the overall proportion of photons sent to the III-V cell per optic.

Not central to the hex shape, but key to increasing efficency, we eliminated the mirror that had deflected light down at the centre of the optic in the Gen 2 version. The result is that the centre of the Gen 3 optic is now a light-collecting surface.

Importantly, since no outer frame is required, no dead space is created when tiling the hexagonal optics together.

2. Increased acceptance angle.

By getting rid of the square’s corners, and via other design optimizations, we increased the acceptance angle of the optic from 0.75 degrees half angle to 0.9 degree half angle.

3. Less material costs.

The Gen 2 square optic was 200 mm by 200 mm, whereas the Gen 3 is a hex is 200 mm across when measured between parallel faces.  This means that Gen 3 has roughly 90% of the surface area of Gen 2 but, surprisingly, produces slightly more power.  Gen 3 is also thinner, making it even lighter.  So a lighter, smaller part, producing more energy.

The Sun Simba was designed to be made of low cost commodity materials. The Gen 3 represents a further advancement: reducing the materials and weight of the module.

FAQs from CPV-7

Q1. How does acrylic, which makes up most of our optic by weight, last in the field over time?

A1.  There are many grades of acrylic, a material that was originally developed in the late 1920s as a shatter-resistant alternative to glass during World War II. Some grades degrade considerably when exposed to the elements. We chose the grade we did because of its superior weathering properties; a UV-resistant optical-grade PMMA for which the vendor had over 20 years of outdoor performance and degradation data. Transmission changes over time are marginal in this type of PMMA.

Q2. How do the small concentric ridges on the optic’s surface weather dirt and dust when compared with flat plate panels?

A2. We’ve had a test site outside of our facility in Toronto for over a year. Despite being next to a major highway (the Gardiner Expressway), our scientists have not observed significantly more sullying of our optics when compared with a reference flat piece of glass.

We extensively studied dirt capture during the development phase of our products.  Research into how materials soil, and how surface energy influences dust accumulation, gave us guidance on the angle at which acrylic can be molded and still have dirt or dust blown or blasted out of its crevices by air currents/ pressure, or water.

In Sum:

The basic physical principles that inform the Sun Simba design have stayed constant since the beginning: a wave-guided optic that eliminates the need for focal distance, and that is extremely durable in the field over time. We have refined this concept to the current, market-ready iteration, which has increased efficiency, increased acceptance angle, and lowered costs as compared to the Gen 2 Sun Simba.

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CPV in France

John Paul was in a different European country every day last week. Exhilarating, but probably exhausting.

On one of these days, he was in France meeting with SolarQuest, who we are partnering with on a medium-scale demo site in their home city, Aix-en-Provence. The regional newspaper La Provence wrote about the visit in this article, which gives an overview of the relationship between both early-stage companies. The article resolution isn’t great – apologies – but essentially, SolarQuest specializes in project development, we’ll supply Sun Simbas for a demo site, and we hope to grow the relationship beyond this.

It’s a fairly obvious point, but partnerships like this are key when trying to enter new markets – the business development, sales, commissioning, service and support resources and know-how can quickly become overwhelming. Regional partners that have these core competencies can be valuable tools for any solar energy start-up looking to expand.

A shorter write up from La Provence is available online, in better res, here: Morgan Solar: l’ami Canadien du SolarQuest.

I have to admit though, beyond knowing that the DNI is decent (5.7 kWh/ sq. m in the South), and that the government just put a 4-month moratorium on some solar projects while it drafts new FIT regulations, I don’t know a whole lot about the CPV or PV market in the country. Anything exciting going on that you know about?

Update:

This just in from the Photon Newsletter (Feb. 24, 2011): The French Government introduced a 500MW annual cap for photovoltaic installations and a 20% reduction of the feed-in-tariffs

(The Feb .22 Press Release from the French Government is here).

 

Congratulations Shane and Matt

Shane and Matt Concentrating Solar Science Fair Project

Shane and Matt Concentrating Solar Science Fair Project

Shane and Matt are grade 8 students who contacted me several months ago.  They had read about Morgan Solar in the Toronto Star and liked the idea of doing their Science Fair project on solar concentrators.  They were hoping to do some tests and experimentation with an LSO optic, to compare their results from testing with other concentrating technologies.  I was impressed with their project, their initiative and agreed to help them in whatever way I could.

They spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon in our lab setting up an experiment and taking measurements, and from the looks of their display, they put allot of time and energy into their work.  Well, at the city finals at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, they won a silver medal.  We’re proud to have been able to offer them a little help and support.  Good work guys, and I have to say that I’m glad I have a 20 year head start on kids like these, I wouldn’t want to be competing with them, that’s for sure.

Science Fair Display - Shedding Light on Solar Concentrators

Science Fair Display - Shedding Light on Solar Concentrators

New World Record for PV Efficiency

That is very cool, as has been reported on a number of sites, Scientists at NREL’s Solar Energy Research Facility have broken the record for cell efficiency.  This is great news, and better still that they got this efficiency at reasonably high concentrations of 326 suns.  So, my questions are, how much concentration can these things take and when can I get my hands on some?

The technical details sound interesting and it’s assembled slightly differently to a normal triple-junction cell, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

My favourite quote from the article:

The new cell is a natural candidate for the space satellite market and for terrestrial concentrated photovoltaic arrays, which use lenses or mirrors to focus sunlight onto the solar cells.

It seems that every time someone mentions CPV, they add “lenses or mirrors”.  There are other ways to do it, and I would venture to say, better ways to do it.

New Product Info on Website

We just uploaded the changes to the product page to give a little more information on the Sun Simba HCPV. We’re going to eventually be adding spec sheets and technical specifications, but for now we’re just giving a thorough overview. We’ve included a couple of images people haven’t seen yet, and we’re getting a few more images made in the meantime.

Back from hiatus

Hi everyone, sorry for the posting hiatus, but things have been insane around here.  For the next couple of weeks there will be semi-regular posts here, but for now it’s just a brief note hello and a couple of updates.

Updates

Updates

The Earth Rangers Centre Demo Site

Everything is on track for this, and right now it looks like the first panels will be installed in the third week of September, with the remainder of the panels in place by second or third week of October.  We’ve already received the tracker and had it delivered to the site, and we’re waiting on the delivery of the first batch of prototype optics from our provider and we’re all set for the assembly process.  The installed has been booked and we’ll be mounting the tracker in a few weeks.  Exciting stuff for us.  We’ll be putting pictures here as soon as they’re available.

Solar Power International 2008

We’ve finalized our booth plan and we’re going be to showing a prototype of our Sun Block solar wall system (more details on that later) and a small version of the Sun Simba HCPV.  Should be pretty cool.

Sun Simba HCPV Details

We’re waiting on the go ahead from the lawyers regarding our patents, but in a week or two we’ll be publishing details on the Sun Simba HCPV system.  We’ve shown it to a couple of people in confidence, and people are pretty impressed.

That’s it for now.