3D Solar Towers Could Prove 20X More Effective Than Flat Panels
March 29, 2012
The application and usage of flat solar panels has ballooned in the last decade, but MIT researchers have proposed a more efficient model in harnessing the sun’s energy. The team constructed scale models of three-dimensional solar photovoltaic towers, comprised of a series of panels configured in a zig-zag form capable of capturing the sun’s rays at all times of the day, from the early morning to light fall. This increased exposure yields a greater and more uniform production of electricity in amounts 2 to 20 times larger than those generated by flat panels with comparable footprints.
The design of the tower was determined by a series of algorithms with environmental considerations such as latitudes and weather factored in to find the most efficient form. The staggered model and two other cubic prototypes were tested on the roof of the lab for several weeks, after which the data was collected. Not only did the tower outperform the others, but it also proved the easiest to ship, with the panels easily collapsed for packaging and extended when ready for installation. The researchers will now test arranging multiple modules together to assess the effect that shadows have on the cluster’s energy output and to generate a series of ideal schemes that will enable the units to be used on urban rooftops and in large solar farms.