In concentrated photovoltaic power plants, cheap reflectors or lenses are used to focus sunlight onto small, highly-efficient III-V multi-junction solar cells. Research work at Fraunhofer ISE has shown that this combination of technologies is dramatically enhancing the prospects of photovoltaics. Concentrated photovoltaic power plants have the potential to drive down electricity generation costs at large power stations in very sunny locations. Moreover, many smaller systems can be merged together to form large power plant units.
One key area of our research is FLATCON® technology, in which Fresnel lenses are used to concentrate sunlight. Market-ready PV concentrator systems employing this technology can be purchased from the ISE spin-off Concentrix Solar GmbH, which was taken over by Soitec in 2010.
A further area of focus is on developing PV receivers for central receiver systems. Such systems utilize a large reflector with densely packed solar cells arranged in its focal plane to minimize losses. Solar cells in such systems are usually actively cooled, meaning that the thermal energy carried off can be used as process heat, thus increasing overall system efficiency.
Here at Fraunhofer ISE, we analyze these systems under real conditions at our outdoor test facility.
Furthermore, we employ a variety of simulation tools, such as network simulation for solar cell development or ray tracing for optical design, when developing and analyzing new components.