Of the many variables inhibiting solar cell efficiency, shade is a big one. It’s not just the shadow of a tree over a panel that causes problems. In fact, just a leaf falling on one solar cell can cause failure in an entire string of cells. That is why you hear “peak sunlight” in reference to solar panel efficiency. Because it is only in full sunlight that panels are working at ideal capacity. To eliminate or reduce this problem would be a huge breakthrough for the solar industry. Solar researchers in Australia believe they have accomplished that very goal.
In answer to what they call the “cannibalizing” of solar power generation, these researchers from Australian National University have devised a system that alleviates the problem. Their design consists of curved mirror-like solar concentrators that focus light directly onto photovoltaic cells to produce electricity. The idea is rather simple. The troughs are much less affected by interference from shadows, falling leaves, birds, whatever. I can’t help but imagine a solar panel, complete with aluminum tray, sun-tanning on a beach. (more…)
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