Semprius Awarded $2.9 Million from ARPA-E to Develop High Efficiency, Low-Cost CPV Solar Cells

Semprius CPV solar cells

Semprius, Inc., an innovator in high concentration photovoltaic (HCPV) solar modules, was awarded a competitive $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The funding will be used to develop technologies that lower the cost of solar-generated electricity while dramatically increasing system efficiencies and energy yields.

Semprius, in partnership with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, The George Washington University and Veeco, received its competitive award from ARPA-E’s Micro-scale Optimized Solar-cell Arrays with Integrated Concentration (MOSAIC) program, which will fund the development of a new class of cost-effective, high-performance photovoltaic (PV) solar modules based upon the use of very small lenses and micro-solar cells.

Critical to driving down the cost of solar energy is increasing module conversion efficiency as well as overall system energy harvest. This project addresses both imperatives, while also emphasizing a module design that will keep system costs low. First, building off of Semprius’ technology breakthrough last year, the team will demonstrate the highest efficiency solar cells ever produced, with efficiencies projected to exceed 50 percent. Second, Semprius will redesign its standard concentrated PV (CPV) module to incorporate both ultra-high-efficiency CPV solar cells and medium-efficiency, low-cost, un-concentrated silicon cells.

The CPV solar cells will capture the direct sunlight that is mostly available on sunny days while the silicon cells will capture the scattered light that is mostly available on cloudy days. This combination will increase the system-level energy harvest to the highest levels ever achieved while expanding the geographic footprint for high-efficiency CPV to include both very sunny areas like the Southwest US as well as regions with significant amounts of diffuse solar radiation like the Northeast US.

“By combining record efficiencies and energy harvest with a low-cost module design, we intend to drive down the cost of solar-generated electricity well below that of current solar- and fossil fuel-generated electricity,” said Scott Burroughs, executive vice president of Manufacturing and Technology Development at Semprius. “This funding is critical to helping us advance our technology to achieve these goals.”

Semprius has been at the forefront of micro-solar cell and high-efficiency CPV solar cell development for the past eight years. Semprius is a graduate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Incubator Program, and in 2012 the company announced the first mass-produced photovoltaic module that exceeded 33 percent efficiency. In September 2013, Semprius increased this record to 35.5 percent, as confirmed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany.

“We would like to thank our collaborators at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the University of Illinois, The George Washington University and Veeco for their participation in this project,” said Scott Burroughs. “We look forward to working together to develop this potentially transformational technology.”

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.

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