Tag Archives: Sun Simba

Morgan Solar at SPI & CPV Summit USA 2012: A Systems Approach to CPV and PV Solar Installs

As module prices have bottomed out over the last couple years, there’s been a lot of talk of the increasing weight of BOS hardware and labour costs to solar farm costs.

At Solar Power International 2012 last month, we unveiled our solution to tackling significant cost reductions in these areas: the Savanna™ dual axis tracker for CPV and PV applications.  Savanna™ is a self-ballasted, lightweight mounting platform – requiring no concrete foundations, or heavy lifting equipment to install and maintain panels. It arrives at the field pre-wired, and can be set up manually using simple hand tools. It has very low end-of-life costs – it can be disassembled and redeployed elsewhere if needed. Essentially, we wanted to take the ‘IKEA’ approach to solar BOS equipment and installation, while achieving exceptional field performance.

In two weeks, at the 4th CPV USA Summit in San Jose, our CEO Asif Ansari and COO Eric Morgan will be elaborating more on our ‘systems approach’ to CPV installations. They’ll be speaking, Asif on the executive panel, and Eric in a session (details on the summit website to come), on how a competitive CPV module is only part of an ultra-low cost CPV solution. They will touch on key innovations in tracking systems, inverters, and system integration that are leading the way to all-in cost reductions for CPV systems. And how requirements for specialized capital equipment, and labour-intensive module fabrication and installation, will limit CPV scalability.

There’ve been increasing innovations on the non-module side in the PV sector, and many were on display at SPI 2012 – module-integrated microinverters, module-integrated grounding plates, tracker robots. At the CPV USA Summit, it will be exciting  to hear about how the CPV sector is picking up this challenge.

Photo: Our SPI 2012 booth, showcasing the turnkey Sun Simba™ CPV system on the left, and the Savanna™ tracker platform for PV applications on the right.

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.

Sun Simba Test Site Install

After testing the panels at our office the day before, our engineers successfully installed the Simbas at the external test site on Friday (August 6). There was some holding of breath, particularly when the panels were hoisted mid-air by the crane (see below) and then fitted into the pole-mount. Overall, however, the install went smoothly.

This is the start of a major push on our test and demo sites – quite soon we’ll have much more expansive systems in place.

*Some have asked if we can say where this test site is.  Unfortunately at this time we can’t give the exact location due to protection of our IP.  However, we can say that the site is in Ontario.

Morgansolar.com Updates

We hadn’t updated the Morgansolar.com site in a while, and there were some changes that were overdue.  We’ve updated the product photos, descriptions and a few small details about the LSO.  Most of these changes were to account for the transition from the triangle LSO design to the square LSO design.

Trianlge to Square LSO Design

Trianlge to Square LSO Design

This change allowed us to reduce dead space on the panels (the edges of the optic have a small moulding flange, but it added up) and makes assembly and manufacture easier. It also allowed us to use less aluminum per panel, so in general, it was a big improvement over the previous design. We had always planned to transition to this design, but there were some technical challenges we needed to solve first. When a supplier delay in September forced us to wait a couple of months, we used the time to tackle the challenges and migrated to the current design ahead of schedule.

The new Sun Simba HCPV based on the square LSO design looks like this:

Sun Simba HCPV Design - A high efficiency concentrating photovoltaic solar panel.

Sun Simba HCPV Design - A high efficiency concentrating photovoltaic solar panel.

And the product section has been updated to reflect the design changes.

We’re getting very close to having working prototypes of our other products, and we already have working prototypes of the Simba, so things are fairly exciting around here.  There are some more photos on our Flickr page.

Some Pics

This is Keith and Phil testing some PV cells. The pictures just look really cool.

Keith and Phil testing cells

Keith and Phil testing PV cells

Here’s another one…

Keith testing PV cells

Keith testing PV cells

Also, here’s a pic of some of the aluminum frames for the first Simba Prototype.  For the prototype we’re not using the Aluminum “H” extrusions since those are going to be manufactured specifically for the production Simba.  These are off the shelf aluminum parts for the prototype, although it’s just the aluminum frame, so it doesn’t change anything.

We’ll be posting some important details on the differences between the prototype and the final production system in a week or so.

Simba Prototype Components

Simba Prototype Components

Sun Simba Press Release

We just issued the following Press Release (PDF file download). Please feel free to download and distribute this file freely.

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.