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Concentrated PV shows Middle Eastern promise

20 Jan 2011

System deployed in Jordan shows an average solar-to-grid efficiency of 21%, with other installations in the region also performing well.

Concentrix Solar, a concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) systems manufacturer that is part of the Soitec family of companies, is claiming excellent results from a deployment of the technology in the Middle East.

CPV has long been thought of as a good technological and economic fit for the sunniest parts of the world, but until now there have been unanswered questions over its ability to withstand the hot, dry and dusty conditions that prevail in many of those locations.

Now Concentrix says that after a six-month trial period in Jordan, its 6 kW, grid-connected system ran continuously through the summer and fall months, delivering an average solar-to-grid conversion efficiency of 21%.

The company told optics.org that, during that time, the CPV system produced 1545 kWh of energy – significantly more than would be expected from a conventional PV system. And although at only 6 kW the CPV system is small, the trial should go some way to convincing energy companies that the concentrated approach is one that can work in the field.

Germany-based Concentrix, originally a spin-out from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), is regarded as one of the most advanced companies in the CPV space, along with the US-based firms Amonix and SolFocus. Amonix is in the process of kitting out a volume production facility in Nevada to produce CPV products, and its technology is expected to be deployed in some utility-scale Californian solar projects over the next few years.

High yields
Concentrix added that its data suggest that the annual specific electricity yield from one of its systems in the best locations will be as high as 2500 kWh per kW of installed nominal AC power. “This extraordinary high value is a result of the site's high level of direct solar irradiation in combination with the great performance of the system,” said the company.

As well as the Jordanian system, Concentrix has five CPV systems (totaling 30 kW) installed in Egypt (in the Wadi El Natrun desert valley, near Cairo), as well as a system connected to the grid in Oman (at the Ar Rusayl industrial park near Muscat). The company is also involved in Abu Dhabi's Masdar initiative to demonstrate the value of CPV technology for the region.

"Very high performance even under very high temperatures, and the fact that our systems require no water at all for cooling: these are the two advantages to highlight in the MENA region," said Hansjörg Lerchenmüller, Senior VP Customer Group of the Solar Energy Business Unit of Soitec. "We have proven with real systems that our technology is best suited for the region, and we are ready for high-volume deployment."

This year appears to be shaping up as a crucial one for CPV companies, with suggestions that the technology is on the verge of a significant commercial breakthrough – although suggested deployments of up to 100 MW would still be tiny in comparison to a global PV market that is expected to be anywhere between 15 and 20 GW.

Concentrix won’t say what its own expectations are for deployments in 2011, but it did reveal to optics.org that it installed close to 2 MW of CPV systems in 2010.

Due to the technology's modular design and high scalability, CPV power plants can be commissioned in phases, thereby shortening the time to operation. And, as Concentrix points out, the first units installed and connected to the grid can immediately start to produce energy, even while the remainder of an installation is still in progress. Once operational, its peak production hours align closely with the peak electricity demands from air conditioning in hot, sunny locations like the Middle East.

art Photonics GmbHDelta Optical Thin Film A/SFISBANanoscribe GmbHBristol Instruments, Inc.NUBURU IncEKSMA OPTICS
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