Solergy, a solar company that develops a concentrated photovoltaic solar energy system, last week introduced BICPV (Building Integrated Concentrated Photovoltaic), the company’s product for building rooftops, greenhouses and agriculture and which is based on the company’s Cogeneration Concentrated Photovoltaic system (Cogen CPV). The launch took place during the recent SOLAREXPO, Italy’s largest solar conference.
Concentrated photovoltaic, or CPV, uses arrays of lenses to focus sunlight onto small solar cells and accounts for a small portion of the solar power market (0.01 per cent). However, according to MIT’s Technology review, CPV is about to get a boost in the U.S. as the U.S Department of Energy will give a conditional loan guarantee of $90.6 million to a 30 MW facility near Alamosa, Colorado, the largest CPV plant ever built.
Solergy, meanwhile, is advancing CPV in Italy. Just before the BICPV launch, Solergy had entered into an agreement with Azienda Agricola Ciccolella, an olive oil and cut roses producer from Puglia, a region of northern Italy. As part of the deal Solergy will integrate a 105kW Cogen BICPV system in Ciccolella’s greenhouses used to cultivate roses. Together the two companies will collaborate to develop the Cogen solar market for greenhouses and orchards throughout the Puglia region, representing hundreds of megawatts.
So what exactly makes this solar company’s offering different? Solergy’s product was the first of its kind. Its “tilt-and roll” tracker design can be installed directly on rooftop beams, greenhouses or to be ground-mounted. The company says it’s the “world’s only all glass concentrating lens, and high precision sun tracking.”
“Our system has a combined electric and thermal conversion efficiency of up to 75%”, Solergy’s CEO Yoav Banin told Energy Refuge. “In terms of electric efficiency alone, we recently measured a record efficiency of 32.9%. A previous generation of the system was validated by NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado) to achieve an electric conversion efficiency of 29%”, he added.
Solergy’s BICPV solution is can transform a passive structural element into an integrated energy appliance that generates electricity and heat. It is compatible with greenhouses and skylights, and features a rapid, non-destructive installation and integration.
“One of Solergy’s unique strengths is its versatility of application. Because Cogen CPV generates both electricity and heat, it opens up the ability to deliver the most energy for industrial and commercial buildings, hotels, airports, greenhouses, agriculture, wineries, utility scale solar fields, etc. The heat can be applied in many situation including air conditioners, industrial process heat, sanitary water, and water desalination”, explained Mr. Banin.
The company recently signed a contract with the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) to build a combined 250 kW Cogen CPV system at the Pantelleria Airport in Sicily. Installation of the system is scheduled for completion by the end of the year. Based on the data from the installation, ENAC will create guidelines for use of renewable energy at airports.
“We are continuing to execute our business strategy through these key customer wins,” said Mr. Banin said. “The unique strengths and versatility of Cogen CPV enable us to enter new markets and provide solutions in many situations where traditional panels are simply inadequate.”
Considering how much CPV boosts efficiency, can we expect solar to achieve grid parity soon? “This depends on the location and application. In some parts of Italy, I believe solar can already compete with fossil fuels. More broadly speaking I estimate that we are two to four years away from grid parity in most major markets”, Mr. Banin predicted.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.