The cost of harnessing solar power has been too high to be deployed without government aid.  Now IBM, in conjunction with Airlight Energy and a consortium of Swiss universities, is looking to radically alter the efficiency and affordability of PhotoVoltaic (PV) systems.

According to IBM, a new energy generation scheme named the High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system could be “capable of concentrating… the power of 2,000 suns”.  By reflecting sunlight off a parabolic array of mirrors the HCPRVT could direct a single concentrated beam of light onto a number of micro-channel liquid cooled receivers which house “triple-junction” 1x1 cm photovoltaic chips.

What makes the HCPVT truly revolutionary is the cost associated with manufacturing this system. IBM researchers believe that the HCPVT system can be built for as low as $250 per square meter or less than 10 cents per kilowatt hour, some 1/3 the cost of comparable photovoltaic systems.

The special side benefit to this system is its ability to utilize the heat that’s concentrated by its parabolic array of mirrors. Because of the intense heat created by the systems reflected light, each photovoltaic chip has to be liquid cooled or it would melt in an instant.

Rather than opting to cool the system with pure distilled water the IBM team imagined that the HCPVT system could also double as a saltwater filtration system. Once the saltwater coursing through the cooling system reached 90 degrees Celsius the “water will pass through a porous membrane distillation system where it [could] then [be] vaporized and desalinated. A large system could provide 30-40 liters of drinkable water -- enough for a small town.” Said IBM.

Learn More about the HCPVT System:

Image and Video of IBM

 

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