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A University of Arizona engineering team led by Roger Angel has designed a new type of powerful solar telescope that uses half the area of solar (PV) cells used by other optical devices and delivers a light output/concentration that is over 1000 times more concentrated before it even hits the cells. This comes as a result of a broader goal to make solar energy cost competitive with fossil fuels (target = 1$/W) without the “need for government subsidization.” Solar concentrators — optical systems of lenses, reflectors, and photo-voltaics — have been developed before, but for Angel and his team, their innovation was the result of rethinking the entire concentrator concept.
This new powerful solar telescope or “energy telescope” focuses incident light, via reflectors, through a ball lens, which then emerges 400 times more concentrated; a second series of funnels then triples this concentration (reaching concentration levels up to 1200 times the “geometric concentration”). These funnels are crafted such that each receives the same amount of light, generating the same electrical output (current amplitude). Cost savings also derive from the use of commercially available triple-junction solar cells (each junction captures a different wavelength of light) which have double the conversion efficiency of single-junction cells used in many arrays.
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