DTU optimizes solar cell technology
DTU researchers will test a new type of solar cell technology that harvests energy from two sides.
By Tine Naja Berg
The results are expected to contribute to Denmark becoming the leader in the field in the solar industry.
The Danish energy company European Energy has just established a test centre at DTU Risø Campus. Here, DTU researchers will now begin studying how to create optimal conditions for the so-called bifacial solar cells, which, in contrast to the traditional monofacial solar cells harvest solar energy from two sides.
“Bifacial solar cells are a technology which in the solar industry are viewed as promising for achieving a greater effect without increasing installation costs, which could help make solar energy more competitive,” explains researcher and project manager Peter Poulsen from DTU Fotonik, who has been involved from the very start when the European Energy suggested a collaboration.
Will increase energy harvest by 50 per cent
Not only are the solar cells harvesting solar energy from both sides, they are also placed on the tracker systems following the Sun from sunrise in the East to sunset in the West. Tracker systems make it possible to harvest even more energy, and also ensure a steady energy production during the day.
The set-up is also intended to increase the reflections from the surroundings.
“We design and test suitable reflection materials while identifying optimum positions for the solar cells. When the solar cells harvest energy from both sides, it is important to ensure optimal reflection from the ground and the sides,” says Peter and continues:
Figure: Tracker systems following the Sun—combined with reflectors that ensure reflections—will increase solar cells’ harvest. (Illustration: Fotonik).
“We are studying and collecting data on to how the entire system must be designed to increase energy harvest as much as possible-preferably up to 30-50 per cent compared to conventional solar cells.”
The experience and measurements from the test system are also to be used to develop an energy prediction tool that can calculate bifacial modules’ energy production on trackers around the world under different weather conditions and sun positions.
Denmark taking the lead in solar energy
DTU researchers’ solutions and new knowledge about bifacial solar cell technology could boost Denmark’s competitiveness. Today, solar cell module manufacturing and management in the Far East is cheap, but the modules’ share of the total investment costs are decreasing, and Danish companies will still be able to create business opportunities in the area of operation and installation of solar farms.
“There is no similar bifacial solar farm with tracker technology in Europe. Therefore, the farm has the potential to become a flagship for Denmark. And with this knowledge that the researchers contribute, we will as a Danish company be better positioning in the competition when bidding for international projects,” says Jan Vedde, Senior Project Engineer in European Energy, who expects that the knowledge produced in the new test system to benefit the entire solar industry.
DTU bets on sun
The fact that solar energy is becoming ever-more important in the industry, is also seen in the increasing demand for research and consultancy in solar energy. In the autumn of 2017, the University therefore established SOLAR DTU, which ensures that companies and government authorities will have a single point of access to DTU, when it comes to solar power.
“This year, we have also launched Denmark’s first study programme in solar energy within our MSc programme in Sustainable Energy in order to support the industry further. This is to ensure a highly qualified workforce for the solar energy sector which increasingly demands engineers with competences within the area. With the new solar farm at DTU Risø Campus, our opportunities to conduct research and create new knowledge for the industry are further improved, as we now have the latest technology available,” says Anders Bjarklev, President at DTU.
About the solar farm
The solar farm at DTU Risø Campus was officially inaugurated on 12 October 2018.
The farm is about 2 hectares and produces 0.43 megawatt peak which is equivalent to the power consumption of about 120 households, when taking into account the benefit of it being bifacial solar cells which both harvest sun in the front and back—opposed to conventional solar cells that only harvest from one side.
The technology has been paid by the Danish energy company European Energy with a view to cooperating with researchers on bifacial solar technology. It is the first bifacial solar farm based on all-new technology in Europe. The aim is that DTU and the European Energy together acquire new knowledge about the power increase potential operational challenges associated with this type of solar farms, which is to place Denmark in the lead of the area and create more jobs in the long term within the installation of solar farms.
source: Technical University of Denmark