Developing micro-scale concentrator photovoltaics

Developing micro-scale concentrator photovoltaics
Concentration Factor
Renewable Energy

After completing my master’s degree in mechanical engineering in the UK, I came to intern at Naddi as part of the EduCARE team. I planned to only spend a month and a half interning, so I came with preconceived ideas of what I wanted to build and the components required. Hence, I set forth on designing a micro scale concentrator photovoltaic system (CPV), this technology generates electricity from sun light and uses lenses and curved mirrors to focus sunlight onto a solar panel. CPV technology has been used to improve the power output of a solar panel by 350 times, however on the budget and time constraints my aim was to double the power output.

Within the first couple of days in Naddi, I discovered that solar power was currently being used by the majority of the street lights in Himachal Pradesh (HP). Every solar street light used a 40W solar panels and 40Ah battery, this ensured the lowest possible probability of loss of power supply and did not require to be connected to grid power. This was important in HP, as the street lights prevented accidents, so reliable constant lighting was key, and they were often deployed in remote locations. However, the cost of the solar lights, limited their deployment to more highly populated areas. I believed that a micro scale CPV system would be very applicable to these solar street lights, as it could reduce the cost of each light and improve its reliability.

I set about designing a CPV system, using the components I had brought with me, including a solar panel, solar charge controller, battery, Arduino and lenses. Surprisingly, the majority of the solar panel components were available in HP, however I was glad that I came prepared. The first step was to configure a solar panel set up, to test my components. Once that was completed, I designed a solar tracker, which rotated the solar panel to face the sun, so that lens remained focused on the solar panel. This was the most difficult part of the project, as it required me to design a frame for the panel to rotate about. Luxuries that I was used to, such as 3d printers and laser cutting was unavailable. Hence, I was forced to be more creative, I used recycled materials to design the frame including plastic bottles and scrap wood, making the design more environmentally friendly and cost effective. In the future of my project, I would aim to design a lens mounting system and make the product more robust.

The freedom of the project and the self-motivation has really helped me to enjoy my time here. I have had so much fun hanging out with the other interns, my favourite experience was going paragliding with them, in the quaint mountain village of Bir. This was a once in a life time opportunity and I am glad I took it.

Jack Parker (UK)
Micro-scale Concentrator Photovoltaics
Project Manager (International Intern)
Renewable Energy Project
EduCARE India