CPV Technology and Solar Industry Frequently Asked Questions

CPV and the Solar Industry

What is CPV solar?

Concentrated Photovoltaic technology uses optics to focus large amounts of sunlight onto small photovoltaic surfaces to generate electricity more efficiently than traditional PV. The greater efficiency comes from the photovoltaic cells used in CPV, which can be III-V (three-five) multijunction cells instead of the crystalline silicon cells used in traditional PV systems. For best results, CPV systems also use trackers to continually adjust the position of the cells to track the sun.

How does CPV compare to other solar technologies?

CPV is a “disruptive innovation” in the solar industry with the potential to displace traditional thin-film and silicon-based PV and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technologies in utility-scale projects in sunny and dry climates. All solar technologies have applications for which they are best suited. Because CPV does not require water in operation, uses land better, and produces more energy per acre than any other solar technology, CPV is the best choice in areas where there is an abundance of sunshine, water is a concern and land use is an issue.

How does CPV compare to traditional PV?

CPV has higher efficiencies and lower overall system costs than traditional PV in sunny and dry climates.
 

How does CPV compare to CSP?

CPV requires far less water, and is less disruptive to the land than CSP. In fact, CPV requires no water in operation, and only minimal water for routine cleaning. In addition, CSP installations must be large – 100MW or larger – and deployment time is lengthy and projects are difficult to permit and finance.
 

Which geographic markets are best for CPV?

CPV technology outperforms other solar technologies in desert-like climates. In the United States, this includes Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. CPV also is an excellent choice in places you might not think of – for example, Colorado and Utah - which also have an abundance of sunshine throughout the year.

What is the state of the CPV industry?

Serious research on CPV has been conducted since the 1970s, and in recent years there have been enormous advances in CPV, especially in the areas of efficiency, improved optics, higher concentration levels and tracking. There are currently more than 100 companies offering CPV technology, with the majority of them having been founded since 2005.

What drives down costs for CPV?

The drivers of cost reduction for CPV are the same as those for other solar technologies: efficiency, capacity and reliability.

CPV solar cell efficiency today is 40% in production, considerably higher than traditional PV, which is about 25%. In terms of capacity, CPV systems can generate 40% more energy throughout the day per rated capacity than conventional fixed tilt solar panels in sunny locations. Reliability is tied to CPV technology, CPV systems and to the company designing and manufacturing them. A third-party engineering firm has certified Amonix systems as having a useful life of 50 years.

Company

What does Amonix do?

Amonix designs and manufactures CPV solar power systems that require no water in operation, use land better, and produce more energy per acre than any other solar technology. With the longest track record of real-world CPV deployments in the industry, Amonix is proven to be the best choice for utility-scale solar power systems in sunny and dry climates.

Amonix has been in business for 21 years, and has deployed CPV solar systems since 1991. 16 years of field deployments and seven generations of system development gives Amonix the longest track record of deployments in the industry.

The experience, stability and proven track record of Amonix provides an enormous advantage over competitors because customers such as utilities, IPPs and others know that Amonix has a strong management team, is reliable, is well-financed and is going to be here for the next 50 years.

Why Amonix?

Amonix is proven – 21 years in business, 16 years of field experience, 8 generations of system development.
 

Where are you headquartered?

Seal Beach, California.

Where do you have manufacturing facilities?

Amonix has a manufacturing facility in Seal Beach, CA and an R&D facility in Torrance, CA.

How many MW of CPV does Amonix have deployed in utility-scale systems?

Amonix systems account for almost 70 MW, more than 80% of the total CPV installations. This rigorous field- testing in real world conditions has hardened the company’s proprietary CPV systems and proven their reliability. Today Amonix CPV systems continue to generate gigawatt-hours (GWh) of clean, renewable solar power at competitive costs.

Where do you have installations?

Amonix systems are installed in Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado and Spain.

Who are your customer and installation targets?

Amonix customers are utilities, independent power producers (IPPs), and other organizations who seek utility-scale solar solutions in sunny and dry climates. Amonix CPV technology is highly scalable, and in the near term focuses on utility-scale systems starting at 2 MW.
 

What is Amonix doing to ensure environmental health and safety?

Because Amonix systems use CPV technology, they inherently require less water and use land better than other solar technologies. In fact, Amonix CPV systems require no water while in operation and only minimal water during cleaning and maintenance. Amonix CPV systems can be installed without grading or disrupting the land, making dual use of the land possible. And because Amonix systems track the sun continuously throughout the day, there is no permanent shading of the land to disrupt plan and animal life.

In addition, Columbia University Center for Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) conducted a study of the Amonix 7700 System’s ‘cradle-to-grave’ performance, finding Amonix to be among the best performers in the PV industry for lifetime greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: only 12 g CO2‐eq./kWh.

Technology

What is the difference between the multijunction solar cells used in your CPV system and solar cells used in traditional PV systems?

The multijunction solar cells used in Amonix CPV systems work by layering semiconductor materials that have different bandgaps. Sunlight enters the layer that has the largest bandgap and continues to penetrate the solar cell until it reaches the layer that has a smaller bandgap than its photon’s energy. 
In this way, multijunction solar cells are more efficient than single layer solar cells because less of the photon’s energy is lost to heat when it exceeds the bandgap of the absorbing semiconductor material.

Used in conjunction with concentrator optics such as Fresnel lenses, multijunction solar cells are capable of converting sunlight into electricity exceeding 40% efficiency. This efficiency rises as the level of concentration increases, but decreases as temperature increases; the Amonix CPV system is designed to keep the cell temperature as low as possible using passive air-cooling.
Unparalleled performance under operating conditions makes Amonix multijunction cell technology cost effective within a CPV system at 500x concentration. The high efficiency more than offsets the additional cost of cooling and 2-axis tracking that are required to maintain high concentration. 


When and how did Amonix transition to multijunction technology?

The PV energy industry has long sought to overcome the efficiency limits of silicon solar cells, which become very inefficient when exposed to concentrated sunlight’s extreme conditions.

In 1989, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the research arm for several hundred domestic utility companies, approached Amonix to solve the solar cell stabilization problem. Using the company’s extensive semiconductor background, Amonix successfully stabilized a silicon solar cell under concentration. Further efforts led to the development of the Amonix back-junction point-contact silicon solar cell, which was the cornerstone of the Amonix CPV systems for many years. In 2005, Amonix produced the world’s most efficient silicon solar cell (27.6% efficiency under concentration), and manufactured it in a commercial environment – an industry first.

After years of silicon solar cell successes and many generations of Amonix CPV systems, Amonix began its transition to use multijunction solar cells. Originally developed for use in the harsh conditions of space environment, Amonix began testing multijunction solar cells on-sun in 2000 when the company received research contracts to adapt multijunction cells for terrestrial use with concentrated photovoltaic systems. Today, multijunction solar cells today exceed 40% efficiency in terrestrial applications – the industry’s highest efficiency.  By replacing silicon solar cells with multijunction cells, Amonix CPV systems now achieve maximum energy output.

Product

How does an Amonix system work?

Amonix CPV systems use refractive Fresnel lenses to focus sunlight 500 times onto multijunction solar cells. With production efficiencies today at 40%, multijunction solar cells are the industry’s highest efficiency cells because they generate electricity from a broader portion of the light spectrum. Multijunction cells also have an inherently lower temperature coefficient than traditional PV cells, which enables them to maintain performance at high ambient temperatures. 



Amonix systems align solar cells and Fresnel lens pairs into a proprietary integrated module design called a MegaModule®, which is factory assembled for faster shipment and construction time. Modules are mounted to a proprietary hydraulic drive tracking structure. The Amonix tracking system follows the sun from dawn to dusk to maintain the sun’s focus on the solar cell. This ensures that the system generates close to peak power output throughout the day and produces more energy better matched to the utility demand curve. Amonix CPV systems generate more than 40% more energy per rated capacity than conventional fixed tilt solar panels in sunny locations.

What are the components of an Amonix system?

 An Amonix system has five major components:

• The MegaModule® subsystem concentrates the sun’s energy onto the solar cell that converts it into electrical energy. It consists of Fresnel lenses and multijunction solar cells.

• The drive subsystem rotates the MegaModules® in azimuth and elevation to track the sun. The drive system consists of a foundation, pedestal, rotating bearing head, hydraulic actuators, and torque tube.

• The hydraulic subsystem applies hydraulic pressure to one side of the hydraulic actuators to move the torque tube and MegaModules® in elevation and azimuth so that the system tracks the sun. The hydraulic system consists of hydraulic valves, accumulator, pump, reservoir, and pressure sensors.

• The tracking control subsystem monitors sensors on the system, calculates required movements and applies signals to the hydraulic valves to rotate the system to track the sun or stow during high winds.

• The AC/DC control subsystem combines the DC power from the individual MegaModules®, converts it to AC power using off-the-shelf commercial inverters, and interfaces to the electricity grid.

The MegaModule® subsystem is designed for unattended operation for either grid- connected or off-grid applications. It moves automatically from a night stow position to tracking the sun throughout the day, typically generating electrical power whenever the Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) is above 400 W/m2.  


Can I use an Amonix system on my roof?

Amonix systems are designed for installation at ground level only.

How much do Amonix systems cost?

Amonix systems vary in price depending on its size and location. Please contact us for further information. 

What maintenance is required for an Amonix system?

Amonix systems have few moving parts and require minimal maintenance, which can be done in the field. The typical maintenance routine includes the hydraulics and intermittent washing of lenses.

Does the Amonix system require cooling?

Ancillary cooling systems such as fans or water are not required.

Can I buy individual MegaModules® from Amonix?

Amonix sells complete integrated systems only to ensure optimal performance and reliability.

What is the useful life of an Amonix system?

A third-party engineering study has affirmed the useful life of an Amonix system as 50 years.

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Amonix, Inc. • 1709 Apollo Court, Seal Beach, CA 90740 USA • 562.200.7700