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Video games and action movies help crank up solar PV output


November 19, 2015
By Anthony Capkun


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November 18, 2015 – Apparently, solar photovoltaic panels are not getting as much light as they could, but a team from Queen’s and Michigan Technological universities have found a way to get more sun to shine on the panels and crank up the output by 30% or more.

“We expend a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make solar panels as efficient as possible,” said Joshua Pearce of MTU. “We work so hard to get a fraction of a per cent increase on the module level; double-digit returns on the systems level was relatively easy.”

Such an increase of efficiency at the system level could change how solar panels are installed and, with the economic payback, could mean major retrofits for existing solar farms, notes the team.

“We’re looking at this from a systems perspective,” said Pearce, adding that the research focused on the system rather than individual panels, mostly because the current setup for ground-mounted solar PV panel arrays is “wasting space”.

The iconic flat-faced solar panels installed in large-scale utility solar farms are spaced apart to prevent shading. As the sun shines on a PV system, sending electricity into the grid, a fair amount of that potential energy is lost as the light hits the ground between rows of panels. The solution is simple, says Pearce… fill the space with a reflector to bounce sunlight back onto the panels and use the light-reflecting mathematical models of video games and action movies to avoid temperature swings.

The work is published in the IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics and funded by Canada’s National Sciences & Engineering Research Council.