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Non-Mechanically Moving Solar Directing System for Photovoltaic Modules


OBJECTIVE: The objective is to develop a cost effective device that can track the sun and direct solar irradiance onto a photovoltaic panel without the use of mechanically moving parts. DESCRIPTION: Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) works to meet renewable energy goals by implementing cost effective systems. Photovoltaic (PV) systems that utilize solar tracking can significantly increase energy production, but the operation and maintenance requirements and associated costs make the technology unattractive for Navy-owned PV systems. New approaches, such as the ARPA-E funded project on"Optofluidic Solar Concentrators,"show that it is theoretically possible to direct sunlight using non-mechanically moving parts. Successful development of this type of technology and others like it will allow for the Navy to continue to implement higher performing PV systems with a minimal increase in operations and maintenance cost compared to that of fixed-tilt PV systems. Proposed technical approaches should consider, but not be limited to, the following areas of concern: 1) Additional weight 2) Heat gain/impact of the light directing material and PV module 3) Material life matching that of PV modules 4) Tracking capability and technical approach 5) Transmissivity changes due to sun angle 6) Performance reduction due to the inability to use diffused solar irradiance 7) Impact to effectiveness due to environmental soiling PHASE I: Determine the feasibility of developing a non-mechanically moving solar directing system how it can be incorporated into existing PV technology/manufacturing processes. Evaluate attributes of the system, including solar tracking capability, product/material longevity and effectiveness over time, using detailed models or small subscale components. Provide a Phase II development approach and schedule that contains discrete milestones for product development. PHASE II: Fabricate and test a working prototype on a PV module/cell based on the Phase I study. Address issues and provide guidance relating to cost effective manufacturability for future commercialization of the technology. PHASE III: Fabricate one or more functional PV panels (i.e., a panel with multiple PV cells and an inverter) based on cost effective manufacturing guidance. Suggest specific detailed design changes to make production models more reliable and cost competitive with the manufacturing of conventional PV panels. PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Solar PV panels are commercially available, but adoption of solar tracking PV systems have been limited to utility scale projects. More effective, fixed solar PV systems can increase the return on investment of a PV system, such as for rooftop PV, and can benefit both the private industry and DoD installations if the technology can be demonstrated to work and the manufacturing costs can be made comparable to that of conventional PV panels. REFERENCES: 1.
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