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IBM and Airlight Energy Develop a Unique Multifunctional Solar Concentrator


screen-shot-2014-09-15-at-11.42.46-am-100451332-primary.idgeYou might wander what would happen if you bring together an IT giant, like IBM, and a small private energy company that develops solar technologies, like the Swiss-based Airlight Energy. Well, wonder no more, because they teamed up, and developed the ultimate solar concentrator that increases the incoming solar radiation 2,000 times, produces fresh water and air conditioning.

The new technology, which is only some three years away from hitting the market, is called Concentrator PhotoVoltaics, or CPV. It resembles a flower, only its size is considerably bigger. The 10-meter-high system can produce around 12 kilowatts of power and 20 kilowatts of heat per day. In addition, during operation, CPV creates hot water as a result of the cooling process, which can then be used for other purposes including air conditioning or be converted into drinkable fresh water.

Some more numbers. This CPV is not only outperforming the typical flat PV solar panels, but it also it is overtaking all other similar technologies. As the makers point out, a PV panel has a conversion efficiency rating of about 15-20%, other CPVs boost radiation about 500 times, while IBM/Airlight Energy’s technology magnifies it 2000 times hitting efficiency rating of 80%.

This is achieved thanks to a special water radiator system, which prevents the chips from overheating. In addition to this, the system can produce 1,600 liters of water a day. It has a life-expectancy of around 60 years if it is maintained appropriately. During this time, the mirrors will have to be replaced around 4 times, while the PV cells twice.

IBM and Airlight Energy do note that their technology would not be so easily fit onto a rooftop, mainly because it weighs around 10 tons. But instead of households, it can be used to supply energy to huge commercial centers or shopping malls, while at the same time casting shadow over car parks and making them a more desirable parking location. The technology could also be a huge asset for remote locations where the cost and need of electricity and water are very high.

The CPV is now under final testings, but the makers promise to bring it to the market in 2017 the latest.

Image (c) IBM/Airlight

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