Wide-angle Optics for Full Day Operation of a Planar Solar Concentrator Employing High Efficiency Microcell Photovoltaics

Open Access
Price, Jared Scott
Graduate Program:
Electrical Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
October 28, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Noel Christopher Giebink, Thesis Advisor
  • Thomas Nelson Jackson, Thesis Advisor
  • optics
  • solar concentrator
  • photovoltaics
  • renewable energy
  • CPV
Concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) offer a route to lowering the cost of solar power, but the existing paradigm based on precise orientation of large-area concentrator modules toward the sun limits CPV deployment to large, open land areas. Here, we explore an alternate approach using high efficiency microcell photovoltaics embedded between a pair of plastic lenslet arrays to demonstrate quasi-static CPV panels <1 cm thick that accomplish full-day tracking through small (<1 cm) lateral translation at fixed latitude tilt. Using both commercial off-the-shelf optics and 3D printed lenslet arrays, we validate this approach through direct outdoor testing and show that it enables flux concentration >200x with >70% optical efficiency over a 120◦ field of view that is sufficient for year-round operation. Per unit of installed land area, cosine projection loss for fixed microtracking CPV panels is ultimately offset by improved ground coverage relative to their conventional dualaxis counterparts, enabling a 1.9x increase in daily energy output that may open up a new opportunity for compact, high-efficiency CPV in rooftop installations and other limited-space urban environments.