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Scalable energy efficiency modules integrating both energy recovery and passive cooling systems for the solar photovoltaic industry

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LightCatcher (Scalable energy efficiency modules integrating both energy recovery and passive cooling systems for the solar photovoltaic industry)

Reporting period: 2019-08-01 to 2020-01-31

Today, about 75% of all the energy produced by humanity is squandered as waste heat, making it the biggest source of energy on the planet. Current approaches to energy recapture, are large, costly and complex, resulting in more than 95% of waste heat that has no energy recovery solution today deployed to capture it, totaling in around 2,000TWh of untapped but readily available energy in the EU, just from electrical power production.
With LightCatcher, we aim to introduce exactly such a solution for the PV industry – a sector that produces huge amounts of wasted heat energy in the EU, approx. 384TWh of unexploited energy annually, representing around 14% of the total European electricity consumption in 2017 (2.7GWh). Today, more than 80% of the solar radiation falling on PV cells is not converted into electricity but wasted.
LightCatcher will allow the implementation of a cost-effective plugin device (H2E-Module) for new and existing PV panels that can quadruple the electrical output power by re-utilising otherwise-dissipated heat energy and cooling the entire PV device. With our revolutionary approach, we enable standard PV panels to convert 80% compared to currently only 20-25% of the incoming solar energy into electricity, while additionally cooling and thus protecting the PV materials against heat stress. This game-changing innovation has the potential for electricity cost savings of €345.5/panel/year and €200.2/panel/year for household and non-household consumers, respectively, as well as CO2 emission savings of 717.3kg CO2/panel/year.
Our key objective for this SME Phase-1 Feasibility Study was to verify the technical, practical and commercial viability of our disruptive solution. Therefore, we conducted the following activities:
1. Task 1: Market and Commercialisation feasibility study: We have carried out a full market research study by revising target regions, market segments and commercialisation channels. Our plan is to reach commercial B2B agreements with key solar park operators and become certified parts supplier for the OEM equipment in our target PV market sectors.
2. Task 2: Product development feasibility study: We have validated the improved solar output power generation as well as the plugin feature of our solution.
3. Task 3: Regulatory feasibility study: We have prepared the detailed protocols in line with UNI and IEC norms, as well as EU PV directives for future market launch of our H2E-Module product in our targeted markets. We updated our IPR analysis to ensure our freedom-to-operate by drawing on patent agents.
4. Task 3: Economic and financial feasibility study: We have revisited the competitors, investment required for our strategy and economic viability. We have formulated the complete business plan including targeted market segments, pricing, risk assessment and mitigation, budgeting & economic forecasting.
Our key objective for this SME Inst Phase-1 Feasibility Study was to verify the technical, practical and commercial viability of our plugin PV device. We wanted to prove that our solution is superior to current status quo on the market and provides a superior performance and environmental and economic benefits. Therefore, we conducted the following activities:
1. Task 1: Market and Commercialisation feasibility study:
• We have contacted relevant stakeholders to fill out missing expertise in the LightCatcher value chain, that will allow us to boost the authorization and commercialisation of our H2E-Module solution, e.g. solar park operators, OEMs and business development advisors.
• Comprehensive report on the market, competitor landscape and commercialisation & marketing plan.
With the goal of confirming LightCatcher commercial viability and finding agreements with companies, we already had face-to-face meetings with key players in the PV and BOS market e.g. EuroSolar, EPIA, APA, EEEF, EERA, UNEF, Helapco, BSW-Solar. During these meetings we introduced them our LightCatcher preliminary results (TRL6 level) and the superior performance and properties of H2E-Module compared to any SoA solution. Most of these companies showed their interest due to H2E-Module unique features.
2. Task 2: Product development feasibility study:
• We have validated the improved electrical conversion efficiency for standard PV panels based on heat waste recycling and cooling effect.
• We have tested the plugin feature of our H2E-Module solution for existing and new solar PV panels in simulated operation environment in collaboration with Son Parc Solutions (TRL6), based on end-user needs.
• We have established detailed settings for further large-scale demonstration of our product, once it is matured at TRL7, i.e. after technological maturation activities in the envisaged Accelerator project.
3. Task 3: Regulatory feasibility study:
• We have prepared the detailed protocols in line with user needs and EU PV standards and certifications.
• We have mapped regulatory requirements for our target markets and updated our IPR analysis.
4. Task 4: Economic and financial feasibility study:
• We have elaborated a business plan, including full cost breakdown.
- High conversion efficiency: Our solution can recover 80% of the waste heat, which is re-utilised to increase the electrical output of the PV panel, resulting in up to 75% electrical energy conversion, i.e. approx. 4 times higher than standard PV panels.
- Cooling effect: Our passive cooling enables to achieve in average 50% lower operation temperature of the PV device compared to standard operations, resulting in efficiency increase of up to 5% in absolute and lowered thermal stress of the PV panel.
- Energy and economic savings: In the Euro area, the potential savings with H2E-Module are €345.5/panel/year and €200.2/panel/year respectively.
- Minimised maintenance and operation costs: Assuming that costs for reparations due to overheating cover 20% of the entire M&O costs (conservative assumption), we can estimate that end-users pay €1.5/MWh (0.2×€7.5/MWh) for repairing thermal-induced cracks, depletions, contact delamination etc. Taking the H2E-Module cooling and the above calculation into account, this can be translated into economic savings of around €0.6/panel/year.
- Maximised lifetime: Some of the main factors reducing the lifetime of PV panels (such as hot spots, delamination, encapsulant degradation, corrosion of interconnects) are caused by prolonged operation at high temperatures. These issues can majorly be addressed by the cooling effect offered by the H2E-Module solution. It is estimated that cooling can prolong the PV lifetime by 20%. Hence, with a warranty lifespan of 25 years, guaranteed by most of today’s top PV manufacturers, H2E-Module would enable standard PV panels to operate up to 5 years more.
- Modular plugin design: The H2E-Module device will be designed as plugin, which can easily be connected to upgrade any commercial PV panel. Furthermore, the production of H2E-Module is fully modular and thus highly scalable to larger PV installations.
- Eco-friendliness: A total energy gain of 1.6MWh/panel/year can be estimated, enabling CO2 savings of 717.3kg CO2/panel/year.
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