Project: Development of an innovative passive system for increasing the efficiency of solar panels

INTRODUCTION_x000D_Identifying and exploiting sustainable energy sources to satisfy the world's growing demand is one of society's foremost challenges for the next decades. In particular, the efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity via photovoltaic solar cells is a paramount contribution to dramatic reducing cost (price and ecological impact) of electricity._x000D__x000D_The power output of photovoltaic cells depends on a number of factors. These include the operating temperature, irradiance and incident angle of the solar radiation. _x000D_Tests have shown that up to 40% extra power can be produced per annum using a solar tracker [E. Lorenzo, M. Perez, A. Ezpeleta, J. Acedo; Design of tracking photovoltaic systems with a single vertical axis. Progress in Photovoltaics 10 ( 2002), 533-543]. However, using electrical tracking systems, in particular for smaller solar panels, will compromise that advantage because of high energy losses in the driving systems and of high cost per Watt produced. It is found that the power consumption by tracking device is 2-3% of the increased energy._x000D_This project relates to the design and prototyping of an innovative solar tracking mechanism aiming at increasing the efficiency of PhotoVoltaic (PV) panels. Most of the solar trackers are driven by electric solutions, which deplete the power produced by the photovoltaic panel for its own operation, and also have the added expenses of retro-fitting and COtaining electric motor and control system. The system proposed here mimics the kinematics of sunflowers, which follow the sun without the need of electric power or motors._x000D__x000D_APPLICATIONS_x000D_These systems will have these applications:_x000D_- highway CCTV and signaling,_x000D_- urban lighting and signaling,_x000D_- rural development,_x000D_- house micro-generation._x000D__x000D_Currently one third of the world population does not have access to electricity and are not connected to the grid. A solution to this problem is renewable energy in the form of PV systems. PV systems are thus a viable solution for rural and remote areas._x000D__x000D_The target of this project is to produce a system that is cheaper, simpler, requires less COtenance and does not need electric power when compared to the others systems on the market. Another target of this project is a compromise between two driving factors: the need to obtain the best behaviour for the function of the system over its full life, and the desire to ensure the components of the system are obtainable in the developing countries, cheap and compliant with the basic machining processes and COtenance._x000D__x000D_TECHNICAL OVERVIEW_x000D_This system works by simply exploiting the different thermal expansion of metallic materials. Although the expanding metals generate small deflections, the corresponding forces are large. It is possible to understand this fact taking for example the damages that thermal expansion of structural materials cause to the civil structures._x000D__x000D_This system is composed by 4 principal parts:_x000D_1-A frame._x000D_2-Three Heat Response Elements (HRE) _x000D_3-A multiplication of movement system._x000D_4-Support for PV panels or water heat collectors._x000D__x000D_Differences in position of the sun in respect to the HRE parts cause heat differences between the parts. The Heat Responsive Elements (HRE) expand when they are heated by the radiant energy from the sun and shrink when they are shaded. The difference of heating between the HRE generates a differential of thermal expansion. This difference is amplified by a multiplication movement system (which is composed by simple levers) that positions the PV panel normal to the sun. Moreover, the exposition of the elements and the coating treatments of the parts are chosen to amplify the differences of temperature, and thus expansion, of the elements (see attachment). _x000D__x000D_MARKET_x000D_The CO market applications are urban and highway lights and signals and pumping for remote locations. However, applications are manifold:_x000D_-Sell roof spaces (factories)._x000D_-PV farms in developing countries._x000D_-PV plants in far, desert lands._x000D_-Small plants_x000D_-street lights,_x000D_-park lights, _x000D_-plants along highways (eg, signaling, emergency phones, CCTV),_x000D_-plants along railways._x000D_-Rural development_x000D_-integration in water pumping systems_x000D_-integration in refrigerators systems_x000D_-Space applications (eg, louvres)._x000D__x000D_CONSORTIUM_x000D_The Consortium is composed by SMEs and a University from Portugal and Italy, who maybe benefit twofold from the technology presented here: there is a tremendous potential for the use of solar power due to high solar exposition, and the social-economical benefits are very significant in periferic countries such as the mediterranean countries . A well balanced consortium has been established both geographical wise and on a industry-R&D center split allowing a closer technical cooperation among Ps with complementary experiences. _x000D_Their expertise at previous joint work at European level leverages the innovation capability and efficiency, thus having a greater impact in the final goals.

Acronym BiomimicSolarTracker (Reference Number: 6510)
Duration 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2015
Project Topic To design, develop, and test an innovative, COtenance-free, and passive solar tracking system for increasing the efficiency of photovoltaic panels for urban, highway, and remote lighting and information signals based on biomimetics.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 6

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
3 Stam s.r.l. Partner Italy
3 Active Space Technologies S.A. Coordinator Portugal
3 Università degli Studi di Udine Partner Italy