Solar panels prices have drastically decreased over the recent years, but it is not enough to produce electricity at a competitive cost. Indeed, for residential installations, the solar panels represent in 2015 only less than 20% of the total installation costs (average in the US). Even solar panels given for free may not balance the system’s costs!
The solar panel efficiency is the key driver for a high return on investment. While traditional silicon solar cells have typically a low efficiency (17-20%), some commercially available technologies exist, with much higher throughput (up to 45%). However, the price for those cells is prohibitive and they cannot be used to cover the full sunlit area.
One solution is to concentrate sunlight on a smaller solar cell. There is a very simple analogy: do we put drains on the whole shower floor to collect the water? Obviously not, all the water flows towards one single drain. The same can be applied to solar energy: all the sunlight can be concentrated in one single spot, which allows to save on material costs and makes efficient solar cells affordable.
While many solar concentrators exist, they all present the same drawback: they need to be constantly pointed towards the sun. The common solution is to tilt the concentrator, around two different axes, to track the sun. However, all the panels’ weight needs to be accurately moved, resulting in a complex structure occupying a large volume, with cost overheads and reliability issues (wind load). For those reasons, concentrated photovoltaics were never competitive with the standard silicon solar cells.
Insolight aims to address this challenge with a new way of tracking the sun. Its innovative technology redirects sunlight coming from any direction towards the concentrator. The concentrator placed below stays at a fixed position and can be mounted like any traditional solar panels. High efficiency and ease of mounting are combined, which opens new perspectives for competitive solar electricity costs.