Integrating thin-film GaAs solar cells with non-tracking mini-concentrators
Practical solar energy solutions must not only reduce the cost of the module, but also address the substantial balance of system costs. Here, we demonstrate a counter-intuitive approach based on gallium arsenide solar cells that can achieve extremely low-cost solar energy conversion with an estimated cost of only 3% that of conventional gallium arsenide solar cells using an accelerated, non-destructive epitaxial lift-off wafer recycling process along with a lightweight, thermoformed plastic, truncated mini-compound parabolic concentrator that avoids the need for active solar tracking. Using solar cell/concentrator assemblies whose orientations are adjusted only a few times per year, the annual energy harvesting is increased by 2.8 times compared with planar solar cells without solar tracking. These results represent a potentially drastic cost reduction in both the module and the balance of system costs compared with heavy, rigid conventional modules and trackers that are subject to wind loading damage and high installation costs.