Morgan Solar has completed patent applications for its concentrating-solar technology, a company executive told Greentech Media this week.
Now the company is ready to talk about some of the technical details behind its ambitious claims.
"We couldn't be more excited," said Nicolas Morgan, company's director of business development.
The Toronto-based company launched out of stealth mode last week with claims – in a Greentech Media article – that it had created a new technology that could cut the price of concentrating solar by three quarters (see Out of Africa: New Concentrating-Solar Tech Inspired by Congo Stint).
Like other concentrating-solar companies, Morgan Solar expects to reduce the amount of photovoltaic material needed to convert sunlight into electricity by magnifying and directing the light into small solar cells.
But while other concentrators use lens or reflectors to direct sunlight into solar cells, Morgan Solar has developed what it calls a "light-guide solar optic" made of acrylic that concentrates sunlight 750 times and redirects it to a tiny multilayered cell on the edge of the plastic.
Two triangular optics are put together in a package about the size and shape of a CD case, each drawing light to one corner of the concentrator, Nicolas Morgan said. The Sun Simba HCPV (high-concentration photovoltaic) panel will consist of 80 to 100 of these CD-case-like arrangements, he said.
The company also has said its design is exposed to less wind pressure, also called wind load, doesn't overheat and - because it's made of a single piece of plastic – avoids thermal-expansion problems caused by different materials expanding at different rates.
Images posted on a company blog show two layers of optics staggered to allow air through. The gaps reduce the panels' wind load and help cool the rows of optics, Morgan said.
And because the optics guide light to the sides, rather than the bottoms, of the rows, heat isn't trapped, instead escaping easily, he said.
Thermal-modeling software has projected that the hottest part of the concentrator will reach a maximum of 86 degrees Celsius (186.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the hottest conditions on Earth – 50 degrees Celsius, with zero wind, zero humidity, and maximum sunlight. Morgan claims that's a fifth of the heat of comparable systems.
The key to being able to stagger two rows of optics, with gaps, is their thinness, Morgan said. The optics are only 5 millimeters thick and are separated by about 1 centimeter of space, so that the whole panel is just over 7 centimeters thick, he said.
"Our panel with two rows and a gap is thinner than most competitors' regular panels," he said. "Most of our competitors would have a very hard time making a viable copy of this because, without the ultra-thin panels, they would end up with [panels] that are like 2 feet thick.
"Really in the end, this is our innovation: Using a few pounds of acrylic and aluminum and the slightest sliver of PV, we're able to do what others are able to do with 200 pounds of aluminum."
In August, Morgan Solar said it planned to install a prototype – expected to measure 1 square meter (10.75 square feet) – at the Earth Rangers Centre in Toronto and begin producing electricity from the panel by the end of this month.
The company is waiting for its demonstration prototypes to arrive and plans to begin installing the tracker in two weeks, Morgan said.
But the company expects that it might not flip the switch until early October, depending on its partners' scheduling, Morgan said. "To be clear, there are no real delays on our end; there are just a lot of parties involved and it's just a matter of getting all the timing worked out," he said.
Meanwhile, Morgan Solar is working on refining plans for its commercial panel, which it hopes to begin producing next summer.
The production panels are expected to measure 1.5 meters by 1 meter (about 4.9 feet by 3.28 feet). The company plans to increase the magnification power of its concentrator and believes it can reach as much as 1,400 suns – 1,400 times natural sunlight - using current multilayered cells.
Because of multijunction-cell advancements, the company is considering launching its panels with a slightly different design that it expects to reduce photovoltaic material wasted in the production process once its panels breach concentrations of 1,000 suns, Morgan said.
Morgan Solar also plans to accelerate its hiring timeline, he said. While the company isn't sure how many employees it will hire, it is advertising two engineering positions on its Website now (see post here). It plans to advertise a couple more jobs "very soon" and another few before the end of the year, Morgan said.
Click through these images to learn more about Morgan Solar's technology: