Researchers at Italian energy company Eni have developed the first prototype PV system based on a new solar energy technology which utilises luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) to generate electricity.
The PV system — which will be used as an outdoor laboratory for the testing of the new devices — has been installed at a shelter at a parking facility for electric vehicles. It allows these vehicles to use the power generated from the system to charge their batteries.
Based on Eni’s LSC technology, Eni’s PV shelter is constructed from innovative materials developed by the company at its Eni Donegani Institute of Novara research centre in Italy. Enipower, a producer of PV cells and modules and part of Eni, is also involved in the project and will remain involved in the development of the LSC technology until it is fully commercialised.
The PV shelter is able to produce around 500W of electricity generated by 192 yellow and transparent PV modules. Each module consists of LSCs which are composed of transparent plastic plates with small amounts of dyes which are patented by Eni.
LSCs can be made from transparent plastic or glass plates. These plates contain dispersed fluorescent dyes which absorb some of the light and emit it into the inside of the plate. Similar to the method of total internal reflection used in optical fibres, the emitted radiation is led towards the thin edges of the plate where it is concentrated on small surfaced conventional solar cells which, in turn, convert it into electrical energy.
According to Eni, LSC technology offers significant potential advantages over conventional silicon panels and solar concentrators based on mirrors or lenses. The plates are said to be able to effectively capture both direct and indirect solar radiation and are therefore just as efficient in cloudy conditions and their orientation is not important. Furthermore, the plates are made from predominantly low cost materials.
Applications may also include transparent PV modules and PV windows, making the technology ideal for use in buildings.