IBM Research and Swiss solar technology company Airlight Energy are working to develop a cost-effective solar panel system that provides remote locations with electricity, heat and water.
The High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system increases the sun’s radiation by 2,000 times and converts 80 percent of it into useable energy resources.
12 kilowatts of electrical power and 20 kilowatts of heat are generated by the sun-tracking device on a sunny day, providing enough energy for several average homes.
The HCPVT device resembles a 10 metre-high sunflower, with a 40 square-metre parabolic dish covered in 36 ultra-thin elliptic mirrors made of recyclable, silver-coated plastic foil.
The reflective surface area focuses the sun’s radiation onto micro-channel liquid-cooled receivers that are covered with a dense array of one centimetre square photovoltaic chips.
Micro-structured conduits pump water around the receivers, absorbing any extra heat away from the microprocessors in a method the developers say is 10 times more effective than passive air cooling systems.
The HCPVT system can also be adapted to use the cooling system to provide drinkable water and air conditioning from the hot water output produced.
A large, inflated, transparent plastic enclosure has also been created for the solar dish to protect it from rain and dust, and to prevent birds and other animals from being hurt.
Airlight and IBM Research are hoping to partner with firms around the world to bring a commercial version of the system to market by 2017.
Learn more about the solar sunflowers in the video below.