March 28, 2012
|Virtu. Credit: Naked Energy|
UK start up seeks up to $15m investment to drive accelerated roll out of ultra-efficient solar panel technology
Did you know that when solar photovoltaic cells get too hot their output plummets? Now a UK start up is seeking to resolve what it regards "a fundamental design flaw" of conventional solar panels through the development of a hybrid solar PV and thermal panel that promises to boost efficiency at high temperatures by around 50 per cent.
Guildford-based Naked Energy has developed a new prototype system based on a patented substrate design that encases solar PV cells in a vacuum contained in glass tubes. "Solar PV panels lose half a per cent of their efficiency with every degree above 25 degrees Centigrade, and in a warm climate they can reach temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees," explained Christophe Williams, managing director at the company. "Our design transfers that heat away from the cells, increasing the electricity output from the solar cells and providing heat for hot water."
The company has worked with Imperial University to independently verify the performance of its prototype, concluding that it can deliver 70 per cent solar conversion efficiency when the electrical and heat output is combined. Moreover, tests showed that the system increases electrical output by 65 per cent compared to conventional PV panels when the cells are heated to 65 degrees Centigrade.
With the technology still at the prototype stage the company is reluctant to estimate the cost of the solar energy the new design could produce. But director Nicholas Simmons argued the significant increases in output mean the system should deliver a "vast improvement" in payback periods compared to conventional solar PV and solar thermal systems.
"The log-term goal is to produce systems at the same price as standard panels, while hugely increasing the energy output," he added.
The company raised £500,000 of funding last year, including a £40,000 award from the Shell Springboard competition, and is currently in the process of raising further funds to support the roll out a number of pilot projects.
Williams is cagey about revealing precise details, but confirmed the company is in talks with a number of large corporates about undertaking onsite pilot projects, while two large scale deployments are also being planned in Chile and China. He also revealed the company is looking to identify potential manufacturing partners who can produce the first wave of panels.
Once the pilot projects are completed the company is aiming to raise between $10m and $15m later this year to help fund rapid global expansion, and as such executives are in San Francisco this week meeting with potential investors as part of the UK's Clean and Cool trade mission.
"We need to move fast to make the most of our first mover advantage," said Simmons, acknowledging that while the company has patents in place to protect its technology rapid expansion represents the best way to protect its intellectual property.
The new funding round would be used to support either production facilities or licensing deals with third party manufacturers, depending on the strategy the company opts for.
In addition, the capital injection would allow Naked Energy to deliver a second generation system that further improves efficiencies.
"By controlling the amount of heat extracted from the cells we can control the amount of electricity and hot water you produce based on the level of demand," Williams explained. "That raises the prospect of us making the system really intelligent. For example, you could draw on weather data to work out that you might want to maximise output on a sunny day and store the energy for use over the next few days when the weather is going to bad."
"We are also looking at using the system to track the sun, which should be possible given that the cylindrical design makes it easier to tilt the cells to follow the sun."
Source: Business Green.com