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Cogem CPVTM Report Summary

Project ID: 674311

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Cogem CPVTM (COGEM CPV - An innovative Ceramic Heatsprider within HCPV (High Concentration Photovoltaic) Technology)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

“COGEM CPVTM” is a Solergy Italia srl project financed by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 674311.
The general objective of the project is to develop “COGEM CPV”, an innovative heatspreader to be integrated in the context of High Concentration Photovoltaic (HCPV) technology. By adopting and applying new materials, particularly ceramics, it is estimated that a reduction of 25% in energy generation costs and an improvement of 3% in performance can be achieved.
The heat spreader is a small system component of the overall Solergy HCPV system that however represents the heart of Solergy’s technology. The heat spreader system contains the solar cell and provides for the electric power production and heat recovery. The heat spreader is an upgradeable component that makes Solergy to be the unique PV player able to allow upgradeability of the system thus increasing electric energy output that normally decreases in time.
By using new components, materials, and technologies, the proposed innovative system with reduce costs by eliminating certain parts and assembly process steps that currently contribute to the final cost of the manufactured heatspreader component.
The objective of Solergy is to introduce a new approach to HCPV by resolving current technological issues related to the heat spreader system and enabling HCPV to take its rightful place as the solar technology of choice for sunny regions. "COGEM CPV" will make an important contribution to the world’s first field upgradeable, 40+ year lifetime High Concentration Photovoltaic (HCPV) system.
Conceptually, High Concentration Photovoltaic (HCPV) technology can offer the lowest cost of electricity of any solar energy generation technology in sunny areas. It combines maximal efficiency and energy production under high direct sunlight conditions with competitive installed cost. Unfortunately, thus far, HCPV has failed to deliver on its potential because of fundamental technological and scale-up shortcomings, and therefore deployments have been limited.
The disruptive potential of “COGEM CPV” lies not only in its potential to greatly reduce the cost of solar electricity generation, but also in the ability to co-generate heat that can be applied for cooling, hot water, process heat, and higher efficiency desalination.
In particular the reduction of production costs is due to the elimination of some components and some assembly process and the improvement of performance is due to the reduction in cell operating temperature.
With the introduction of “COGEM CPVTM”, Solergy can tackle the challenges set out by the Work Programme and the resulting Energy and Climate targets for 2020 and beyond that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase the share of renewable energies, improve energy efficiency and, ultimately, contributing to the establishment of an energy system that will deliver a competitive, secure, and sustainable energy supply.
Key activities include:
- Optimize the innovative design of the Heat spreader for performance & reliability through prototyping activities, focusing on the new heat-spreader coupled with Solergy’s unique all-glass lenses;
- Pilot “COGEM CPVTM” prototypes to validate evolutive heat-spreader performance in the field;
- Strengthen the current “COGEM CPVTM” IPR Strategy for the above-mentioned innovations, in particular regarding key geographical target markets;
- Achieve maximum outreach through the dissemination of project results in support of future commercialization.
Solergy has developed the world’s first upgradeable, 40+ year lifetime, High Concentrating Photovoltaic (HCPV) System that actually increases its power output over time rather than degrade. It generates up to 3x the electricity of a traditional PV panel over its lifetime and optionally cogenerates heat at no additional cost.
Current thinking and practice around the cost of solar electricity, financing schemes, and operating lifetime have been conditioned by the limitations of standard silicon PV panels. Solergy’s Upgradeable Solar technology coupled with the steadily increasing efficiency of multijunction solar cells disrupts this conventional approach.
Solergy CPV initially generates around 40% more energy than fixed traditional PV. Upgrading the cells boosts power output and extends lifetime to 40-50 years. The unique module architecture enables cell upgrade directly in the field at low-cost.
Multijunction cells have already achieved efficiencies of 46% and improve by 1-2% absolute every year. With a 70% theoretical efficiency limit, significant efficiency gains will continue to be realized in the coming years.
Solergy’s unique design has been engineered to provide consistent, maximal performance under the harshest environmental conditions including extreme winds, heat, thermal gradients, dust, and sand storms. Materials and assembly processes have been selected to ensure durability over many, many years.
Solergy’s patented technological breakthroughs include:
- All-glass concentrating lens: Guarantees reliable optical performance and long life.
- Active thermal control: Maximizes cell efficiency under any ambient temperature. Enables cogeneration of heat. Closed fluid circuit minimizes water usage.
- 4-axis, high precision tracking: Guarantees that every single concentrator is aligned to the sun within 0.1°.
- Upgradeable Cone Concentrator Module: Precisely aligns each lens-cell pair in a hermetically sealed unit, preventing penetration of contaminants & humidity. Enables rapid cell upgrade in the field.
- Self-calibrating panels: Fine-tune, automated panel alignment with remote monitoring & control accelerates installation and minimizes field maintenance visits.
- Rigid, low profile tracker: Operates in up to 200km/hr winds with no safety stow position required. Low profile minimizes visual impact.

(see Figure 1 - How it works)

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Project activities carried out throughout the first project year can be split in two main areas:
1) Research activities for the development of a new innovative component
2) IPR Management & Market research and Dissemination and exploitation activities
Research approach has been carried out according to a scientific method consisting of an iterative numerical analysis and testing process in order to optimize results and performance. Design implementation phase is ongoing however preliminary results in real environment testing on preliminary prototypes registered an improvement in heat dissipation/recovery and an improvement of electrical power of 18% compared to our actual HS system. Results need to be confirmed by further testing. Design activities conducted to a simplify and increase of reliability of electric and hydraulic connectors.
Various activities such as, patent landscape monitoring, patentability study of potential innovative project solutions, stakeholder and market analysis and enriching the exploitation and market strategy have been carried out successfully.
Dissemination activities have been carried out such as preliminary communication plan, website development, article publication, presentation of project in workshops ect.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The International Energy Agency (IEA), in its report Energy Technology Perspectives, June 2016, noted that while progress is promising, global clean energy deployment is still behind what is required to limit global warming by 2°C by 2025 (2DS target). The report further noted that greater innovation is essential to meet ambitious climate goals.

Within this context, progress on solar energy deployment has been solid, adding another 45 – 50GW in 2015. By now there is no question that solar can scale and it must be a significant part of the energy mix to fulfill the 2DS target. But, how much will it cost to scale solar by 10x-20x to achieve the necessary capacity of multiple terawatts? Not only in terms of capex and investment, but also in terms of materials consumption, energy, disposal, land use, and environmental damage? The challenge and the opportunity now is to develop strategies to scale up solar adoption to terawatt production levels at low cost, but also in an environmentally sustainable way.

HCPV systems provide a highly scalable, low impact pathway to terawatts of solar energy in regions with high solar resource. They extract 1000-3000 times more power per unit area of semiconductor material by using lens and/or mirrors to concentrate sunlight 500 – 1500 times onto tiny multijunction cells of dimension 1cm2 or less. In this way, expensive, hard to recycle semiconductor is replaced with cheaper materials such as glass and metal. Multijunction cells with efficiencies over 40% are already commercially available and are expected to reach 50% efficiency within the next 3 years.

With the above strategies we will extract more power from less land and consume smaller quantities of expensive and toxic semiconductor material. Now imagine that we could double the lifetime of a solar power plant to 40-50 years and actually boost its power output over time rather than watch it passively degrade to obsolescence. The savings in capex, resource and land consumption, and ultimately energy costs would be enormous. Natural gas or coal power plants are built to last 40 years or more, why should solar be less?

As described above, Solergy has developed the world’s first upgradeable, 40+ year lifetime High Concentrating Photovoltaic (HCPV) System that can generate electricity at a cost as low as $0.01/kWhr. It offers a pathway towards the lowest cost of electricity while minimizing capex, resource use, and general environmental impact.

(see Figure 2 - Environmental Impact of PV Compared to Solergy CPV)

The COGEM project plays an important role in the realization of low-cost, sustainable solar by supporting the development of the heat spreader – the upgradeable component which helps make the various benefits described above feasible. Already, technological breakthroughs in thermal management under concentration, that minimize cell operating temperatures and thereby maximize conversion efficiency, have been realized. New, innovative designs that reduce component count and reduce cost of assembly are in advanced phases of realization. The sum of these efforts are expected to bring the heatspreader component in line with required cost and performance targets.

In conclusion, the activities within the COGEM project are driving the realization of 40 Year, Upgradeable Solar beyond the current state of the art and are making significant contributions towards the broader societal goals of accelerated solar adoption in a sustainable fashion.

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