Enhancing Electrical and Heat Transfer Performance of High-Concentrating Photovoltaic Receivers
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
In a world that is constantly in need of a continuous, reliable and sustainable energy supply, concentrating photovoltaic technologies have the potential to become a cost effective solution for large scale power generation. In this light, important progresses have been made in terms of cell’s design and efficiency, but the concentrating photovoltaic industry sector still struggles to gain market share and to achieve adequate economic returns. The work presented in this thesis is focused on the development of innovative solutions for high concentrating photovoltaics receivers. The design, the fabrication and the characterization of a large cell assembly for high concentrations are described. The assembly is designed to accommodate 144 multijunction cells and is rated to supply energy up to 2.6kWe at 500 suns. The original outline of the conductive copper layer limits the Joule losses to the 0.7% of the global power output, by reducing the number of interconnections. All the challenges and the issues faced in the manufacturing stage are accounted for and the reliability of the fabrication has been proven by quality tests and experimental investigations conducted on the prototype. An indoor characterization shows the receiver’s potential to supply a short-circuit current of 5.77A and an open circuit voltage per cell of 3.08V at 500×, under standard test conditions, only 4.80% and 2.06% respectively lower than those obtained by a commercial single-cell assembly. An electrical efficiency of 29.4% is expected at 500 suns, under standard conditions. A prototype’s cost of $0.91/Wp, in line with the actual price of CPV systems, has been recorded: a cost breakdown is reported and the way to further reduce the cost have been identified and is accounted. In a second approach, the design of a natural convective micro-finned array to be integrated in a single cell receiver has been successfully attempted. Passive cooling systems are usually cheaper, simpler and considered more reliable than active ones. After a detailed review of micro-cooling solutions, an experimental investigation on the thermal behaviour of micro-fins has been conducted and has been combined with a multiphysics software model. A micro-finned heat sink shows the potential to keep the CPV temperature below 100°C under standard conditions and the ability to handle the heat flux when the cell’s efficiency drops to zero. Moreover, a micro-finned heat sink demonstrates the potential to introduce significant benefits in terms of material usage and weight reduction: compared to those commercially available, a micro-finned heat sink has a power-to-weight ratio between 6 and 8 times higher, which results in lower costs and reduced loads for the CPV tracker.
EPSRC-funded BioCPV project
PhD in Renewable Energy