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New Institute for the Development of Photovoltaic Concentration Systems in Puertollano

The research Institute for Photovoltaic Systems has been created in Puertollano (Ciudad Real, Spain) to become the worldwide reference in Concentration technologies. The Centre, whose headquarters will be in Puertollano in a plot of 55000 m2 provided by the town council will have a staff of some 30 people. Aditional information can be found in

Spain is a leading power in the field of photovoltaic technology both scientifically and industrially. In 2004, we were the fourth largest producer of solar cells, after Japan, Germany and the USA, and we exported 80% of the solar cells manufactured. Puertollano, with its factories for the production of wafers and photovoltaic modules, is becoming an increasingly important centre in the Spanish development of photovoltaic technology. To this it is now added a new research centre: the Institute for Photovoltaic Concentration Systems. Photovoltaic solar energy is currently going through a remarkable development. The rate of growth of the global photovoltaic industry in the last 8 years has been 33.4% per year, to compare to the overall growth in the semiconductor industry, of which photovoltaics forms a part, of 6.2%. This growth will continue to be as vigorous in the next few years to come. However, we believe that the current technology, which is giving rise to wide-ranging industrial activity, is not going to be enough to supply from the sun, without too much delay, a large part of the World electricity needs. New concepts are required in order to carry this out. At the Institute of Solar Energy at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, we co-ordinate the integrated FULLSPECTRUM Project of the European Commission, with 19 European centres of excellence in R & D for the development of these concepts. One of the most promising in the short term is the use of multi-union super-efficient solar cells whose use requires concentration. The current action is oriented towards the industrial implementation of the concentration technology necessary for these new concepts. Photovoltaic concentration technology is based on separating – for their more efficient implementation – two functions that are carried out together in current photovoltaic modules. These are the collection of solar light and its conversion into electricity. In the concentration systems, light is collected through various optical means – special lenses and mirrors – and all the collected light is focused on the light-to-energy converters, which are photovoltaic solar cells of a very high output. These solar cells are much more complex – and for this reason much more expensive – than conventional ones. But when they receive a large amount of luminous energy they produce more electricity and, as a result, they may on balance be cheaper. It is forecast that they could in the long term compete on price with conventional electricity. Photovoltaic concentration technology has been the subject of investigation in Spain since 1976 and the country has attained an outstanding and well-regarded position for this work. For example, it was in Spain where the first treatise on the subject, published in Bristol in 1989, was authored and where, in Tenerife in 1998, the one of biggest photovoltaic concentration plants in the World was deployed. Nonetheless, this technology is not yet being manufactured. But we believe that the level achieved by prototypes is already ripen enough as to make its industrialisation imminent. The above-mentioned Centre aims at being the global catalyst for this industrialisation. In Spain we have climatic conditions well suited for concentration – that is to say, considerable direct radiation – that, combined with the economic conditions offered through Plan for the Promotion of Renewable Energies, is attracting a general interest to install such systems here when they are made. Spanish companies are among the most advanced in the industrial development of this technology. But the continuing lack of commercial applications means that approved norms suitable for photovoltaic concentration do not exist yet, nor have sufficient experiments been carried out on the precise prediction of the production of such systems, nor is it known for certain the costs of their installation and maintenance, etc. The Centre will cover these aspects. In various places in Castilla La Mancha, plants of photovoltaic concentration with a total of 2.7 MW using three or four concentration technologies that are now in development, in Spain and elsewhere in the World, will be set up. There is no precedent for such an operation. These plants will allow the selected companies to be able to move from the current state of prototypes-in-development to the manufacturing pilot line and to know the problems and costs of installation in the field, all of which is necessary for the commercial deployment of these technologies. The Centre will carry out important research and development tasks such as studies on norms, developments on measurement technology for large systems, reliability testing, maintenance and recycling of plants, analysis of solar radiation and the energy produced, etc. Clearly the selection of the photovoltaic concentration systems for installation will take into account the industrial development of Spain and of Castilla La Mancha, but the technologies to select will be those that are most advanced and that have the brightest future. This means that they will need to count on the approval of an International Scientific Council, where the nationality of the manufacturer does not constitute a determining element in the selection. In any case, we are convinced that even with these demanding criteria, and indeed thanks in part to them, national and regional industry will clearly be benefited. Moving to economic matters, installed plants will be connected to the network conform with the Royal Decree 1663/2004, which establishes the tariffs and conditions for the production and sale of energy. They will provide funds able to contribute in a substantial manner to the permanent maintenance of the Centre in a way that the receipts coming from the regional government of Castilla la Mancha, through a contract programme in agreement with the central government requirements, could be very much inferior to the outlay that the activity of the Centre will require. The IES Institute of Solar Energy of the Polytechnic of Madrid has been entrusted with the role of adviser to the government of Castilla la Mancha with regard to the implementation of the proposed Centre. The technical management of the same will be supervised by the already mentioned International Scientific Council, which has recently been set up and which (with more names to be added) already includes Doctor Palz, founder of the PV program of the EC and Professors Grimmeiss of the Royal Swedish Academy and president of the European Society for the Investigation of Materials; Groezberger, founder and retired director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy in Freiburg in Germany; Andreev, winner of the Lenin Prize and head of the Laboratory of Solar Cells of the Ioffe Institute of St Petersburg; Almonacid, head of the Photovoltaic Systems Group at the University of Jaén, together with Sala and Luque, both of IES and. The Centre, whose headquarters will be in Puertollano in a plot of 55,000m2 provided by the town council, will be sited in a building to be constructed to some 3,000 m2. Joined to the building will be about one Megawatt of photovoltaic concentrators (of the 2.7 MW planned), with the rest deployed in smaller plants in other parts of the region that have still to be decided. The centre will have a staff of some 30 people, some of a high scientific standing, to which will be added an indeterminate number of visiting scientists in relation to specific programmes that could be developed. It is hoped that these actions will contribute to the achievement that photovoltaic solar energy begins a new path that should bring down prices sufficiently within the medium term to allow a massive penetration of solar energy.