Research is on its way to improve performance of solar photovoltaic cells and bringing down cost has been the key issue. However, little importance has been given to the arrangements of these cells. Normally, PVs are placed in a flat position on rooftops and other surfaces. They’re also attached to vehicles and motorized structures where the cells are placed in a specific direction pointed towards the sun. A team of MIT researchers have taken a different route by building towers or cubes, which extend the cells vertically in a three dimensional shape. The structures have proved to be more efficient than the old designs since their power output ranges from double to 20 times the output of fixed flat panels.
The results were seen when tested in locations further from the equator, during cloudy days and in winter. The team originally used a computer algorithm to survey the possible configurations and created analytic software that could test the practicality of the configurations to find out which works best, under what range of latitudes, season and weather.
The cost of a 3D module surpasses that of an ordinary flat panel. However, the high price is well balanced given that it produces a higher energy output and more power is generated in the course of a given day. The improvements made to the model incorporate the 3D modules with power grids without much complexity.
The change in physical attributes of the structures is that the vertical surface can harvest more sunlight during any given time. The team thinks that the modules have a bigger advantage in locations where space is limited, such as urban environments and flat rooftops.
The team has shown that 3D photovoltaic elements can provide advantages in capturing light at various angles. Their challenge now is to mass produce the models in a cost effective manner.