Amonix, a CA-based startup company, is developing ultra-efficient solar cells based on concentrated photovoltaic technology, combining cheap yet powerful lenses, a Sun-tracking system and efficient silicon solar cells, but in smaller quantities than if spread on a panel without lenses.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm, invested $129 million in Amonix’s concentrated photovoltaic technology. “We’ve looked at 100 solar companies in the last 18 months, and Amonix is the one that stood out to us as having breakout potential,” says Ben Kortlang, a partner at KPC&B.
Without a sun-tracking system, the most efficient PV panel would get 18% efficiency end-to-end. Using Amonix’s tracking devices and special lenses the efficiency gets up to 25%. Their 23.5×15 meter array is covered with thin, plastic Fresnel lenses, measuring 350 cm2 each. The sunlight is concentrated some 500 times its normal brightness, into an ultra-efficient multi-junction solar cell that converts 39 percent of the light into energy, made by SpectroLab. Such cells even got a 41% efficiency in close-to-ideal lab tests.
For the performance of the cells to be improved, Amonix’s tracking system keeps the Fresnel lenses pointed within 0.8 degrees of the angle of the sun throughout the day.
The technology that Amonix possesses is already being used for about 13 MW of electricity, representing more than half of all the installed concentrated photovoltaic capacity in the world, which tells a lot about the technology’s potential.