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A new dimension for solar energy
Date:3/26/2012

of 3-D shapes in general, he says. The team analyzed both simpler cubic and more complex accordion-like shapes in their rooftop experimental tests.

At first, the researchers were distressed when almost two weeks went by without a clear, sunny day for their tests. But then, looking at the data, they realized they had learned important lessons from the cloudy days, which showed a huge improvement in power output over conventional flat panels.

For an accordion-like tower the tallest structure the team tested the idea was to simulate a tower that "you could ship flat, and then could unfold at the site," Grossman says. Such a tower could be installed in a parking lot to provide a charging station for electric vehicles, he says.

So far, the team has modeled individual 3-D modules. A next step is to study a collection of such towers, accounting for the shadows that one tower would cast on others at different times of day. In general, 3-D shapes could have a big advantage in any location where space is limited, such as flat-rooftop installations or in urban environments, they say. Such shapes could also be used in larger-scale applications, such as solar farms, once shading effects between towers are carefully minimized.

A few other efforts including even a middle-school science-fair project last year have attempted 3-D arrangements of solar cells. But, Grossman says, "our study is different in nature, since it is the first to approach the problem with a systematic and predictive analysis."


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Contact: Kimberly Allen
allenkc@mit.edu
617-253-2702
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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