The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has commenced a two-year trial of concentrating solar photovoltaic technology (CPV). A CPV array, designed and supplied by Japan’s Sumitomo Electric Industries, was inaugurated on Wednesday at a state government research facility in Redland, in Brisbane’s southeast.
Concentrating solar PV, which uses dual-axis tracking, concentrating lenses and very high-efficiency PV cells, has experienced limited deployment in recent years when compared to conventional solar PV panels.
While cumulative conventional PV capacity passed 300GW globally in 2016, installed CPV remains in just the hundreds of MW.
While the technology has long appeared promising, as the cost of PV modules fell sharply at the beginning of this decade, a number of CPV technologies were not able to remain competitive with standard PV power plants.
Some developers went bust, such as GreenVolts from the Silicon Valley, while others pivoted into related semiconductor products, such as France’s Soitec.
Japanese CPV developer Sumitomo is continuing to promote the technology and is hoping to foster the deployment of the CPV in Australia.
It claims that as the technology is well suited to high-temperature applications and where there are high levels of direct sunlight, such as in desert regions, it is a good fit for many locations in Australia including rural and regional Queensland.
The trial at QUT will track the total power output of the CPV system and investigate its applications on an economic basis. The inauguration of the pilot plant was attended by 50 representatives from the Queensland government, QUT and Sumitomo.
When announcing the collaboration, QUT Professor Ian Mackinnon said that the plan is to demonstrate the potential of CPV applications alongside redox flow batteries.
“CPV technology combined with redox flow batteries promises to be a crucial part of the future energy mix in Australia and around the world,” said Mackinnon, in a statement.
“In rural and regional Queensland in particular, there is great potential for megawatt-capacity renewable energy projects using CPV systems and redox flow batteries.”