Design Innovation

Concentrated Solar Power Harvesting Using Self-powered, Wireless, Thin-profile, Lightweight Solar Tiles

[+] Author and Article Information
Serhan M. Ardanuç1 n2

 Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853serhan.ardanuc@mems.metu.edu.tr

Amit Lal2

The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering  Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853amit.lal@cornell.edu

Samuel C. Jones

The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering  Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14850scj37@cornell.edu


Present address: Senior Research Engineer, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems Research and Application Center, Middle East Technical University Ankara, Turkey 06531.


Corresponding author.

J. Sol. Energy Eng 133(3), 035001 (Jul 25, 2011) (7 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4004244 History: Received January 14, 2011; Accepted May 03, 2011; Published July 25, 2011; Online July 25, 2011

This paper presents a modular and scalable approach to concentrated solar power (CSP) harvesting by using low-profile, light-weight, sun-tracking, millimeter-to-centimeter-scale mirror arrays that can be wirelessly controlled to reflect the incident solar energy to a central receiver. Conventional, utility-scale CSP plants use large-area heliostats, parabolic troughs, or dish collectors that are not only heavy and bulky, but also require significant labor for installation and maintenance infrastructure. Furthermore, form-factors of current heliostats are not compatible with low-profile roof-mountable systems, as seen by the dominance of the conventional Photovoltaic systems for roof-top installations. Solar TILE (STILE) technology to be presented in this work enables concentrated solar power harvesting on a given surface with form factor and weight per unit area comparable to those of ceramic tiles used on walls/floors or that of Photovoltaic modules. Self-powered operation by integrated solar cells, elimination of wiring for power transfer, wireless control, and weather-proof enclosure of moving parts help STILE technology promise lower installation and maintenance costs than PV approaches, while enabling novel beam-redirection applications over large surfaces. As the STILEs are made of mostly plastic, which costs at least an order of magnitude less than solar grade silicon, associated material costs could potentially be much cheaper than silicon PV cells. After a description of the STILE technology and a discussion of mirror scaling, we present a prototype tile with dimensions 33 × 33 × 6.4 cm3 and detail its wireless operation.

Copyright © 2011 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Comparison of CSP systems in cities with (a) conventional, large-area, solar-tracking heliostats, and (b) solar tiles. In both cases, central solar collection towers are located on the roofs of neighboring buildings for electricity generation, thermal storage, or optical distribution (daylighting).

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Figure 2

Overview of mirror scaling for solar tiles and relevant manufacturing technologies

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Figure 3

Illustrations for one prototype of the STILE concept developed at SonicMEMS Laboratory at Cornell University. The thin-profile mirror array (33 × 33 × 6.4 cm3 ) can be wirelessly controlled (using an IR remote), and it is self-powered by a battery and solar charging circuitry. A transparent enclosure provides weather protection to all of the moving parts.

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Figure 4

Model for the pivoted pixel design used in 2D analytical ray-optics calculations

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Figure 5

Illustration of (a) shadowing and (b) trapping as optical efficiency loss mechanisms

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Figure 6

Relations between best, illuminated, and reflected efficiencies considered in the model

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Figure 7

Efficiency results for (a) θ tgt  = 80 deg and (b) θ tgt  = 35 deg from simulation runs that sweep the source polar angle (θ src ) from 1 deg to 180 deg, while keeping all the other parameters constant

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Figure 8

(a) Picture of the experimental setup during the first field testing of STILEs performed in Ithaca, NY, USA. Short circuit current of a pole-mounted PV is used to monitor the incident power at the central receiver. (b) Transient plot of the PV current output during single-tile switching experiments. Two highlighted regions illustrate the duration of the experiment when the azimuth angle of the tested tile is cyclically changed or kept constant.

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Figure 9

Transient plot of the PV current output during the two-tiles switching experiment. The experiment was started at 14:51 (EST).

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Figure 10

(a) Transient plot of the PV current output during successive activation and deactivation of three-tiles. The experiment was started at 16:34 (EST) (b) Picture showing the arrangement of TB-CRS during the three-tiles switching experiment.




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