Concentrated Solar Power Harvesting Using Self-powered, Wireless, Thin-profile, Lightweight Solar Tiles

Ardanuc S. M., Lal A., Jones S. C.

JOURNAL OF SOLAR ENERGY ENGINEERING-TRANSACTIONS OF THE ASME, vol.133, no.3, 2011 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier


This paper presents a modular and scalable approach to concentrated solar power (CSP) harvesting by using low-profile, light-weight, sun-tracking, millimeter-to-centimeter-scale mirror arrays that can be wirelessly controlled to reflect the incident solar energy to a central receiver. Conventional, utility-scale CSP plants use large-area heliostats, parabolic troughs, or dish collectors that are not only heavy and bulky, but also require significant labor for installation and maintenance infrastructure. Furthermore, form-factors of current heliostats are not compatible with low-profile roof-mountable systems, as seen by the dominance of the conventional Photovoltaic systems for roof-top installations. Solar TILE (STILE) technology to be presented in this work enables concentrated solar power harvesting on a given surface with form factor and weight per unit area comparable to those of ceramic tiles used on walls/floors or that of Photovoltaic modules. Self-powered operation by integrated solar cells, elimination of wiring for power transfer, wireless control, and weather-proof enclosure of moving parts help STILE technology promise lower installation and maintenance costs than PV approaches, while enabling novel beam-redirection applications over large surfaces. As the STILEs are made of mostly plastic, which costs at least an order of magnitude less than solar grade silicon, associated material costs could potentially be much cheaper than silicon PV cells. After a description of the STILE technology and a discussion of mirror scaling, we present a prototype tile with dimensions 33 x 33 x 6.4 cm(3) and detail its wireless operation. [DOI: 10.1115/1.4004244]