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Solar Technology
There are a number of ways to harness solar energy to generate electricity. New Solar offers a number of these solutions (or variations) to our clients, and they are described in the following sections. We help our clients to select the best combination of technologies and financial parameters that can deliver the most value and performance. We optimize the technology mix to meet our customers' requirements on return-on-investment, power production, reliability, and schedule. Our staff will be happy to discuss with you on the various tradeoffs of these technologies.

The sun constantly hits the Earth with 120,000 Tera-Watt (1012 watts) of energy. More energy from the sun hits the earth in one hour than all of the energy consumed on our planet in an entire year. To put it another way, the solar energy received globally is approximately 1,540,000,000,000,000,000 kWh/year (1,540 peta kWh/year). This is 15,000 times more than the worldwide energy consumption today. Let's see how we can tap into this tremendous source of clean energy.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar sunlight into direct current electricity using a semiconductor material that exhibits the photovoltaic effect. This photovoltaic effect to tap into solar energy was first discovered in 1839 by the physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel. The strange-sounding term "photovoltaic" originates in the driving force behind this technology -- the light beam.

Solar cells are the smallest units of a photovoltaic installation and solar cells convert light into electric current (photoelectric effect). Individual solar cells are connected together in a solar module (or solar panel). A solar module is the flat panel-looking unit constructed from these solar cells. A photovoltaic (PV) solar system is built from an arrangement of solar modules and strings of solar modules.

Below is a brief description of a typical solar PV system that can be installed on top of a residential building or commercial building.


  1. Individual solar cells are connected inside the solar panel, and strings of solar panels are connected together on the roof to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity.
  2. An electronic component box called the "Inverter" converts direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity.
  3. This AC electricity is fed from the inverter to a residential or commercial building, and this AC power is what we normally used to power electrical equipments, appliances, and electronic devices.
  4. The AC electricity from the inverter is also fed to the utility electric meter. The meter records the net amount of energy generated through the solar PV system. The meter is used by your local utility company to figure out how much they charge you for your electricity use. This meter normally spins forward to record the amount of electricity you draw from the grid.
  5. The meter is also connected to the utility electric grid. When your solar system is creating more electricity than you are using, your meter will spin backwards and the excess electricity is sent to the electric grid from your solar system. This backward spin offsets the amount of charges you have to pay your utility firm. The meter will "normally" spin forward at night or on cloudy days when your solar system is generated less power than you are consuming at that time inside the building.
Solar modules can be installed in large quantity in an open field to form a large-scale solar power plant, or solar farm. This solar power plant is similar to a coal-powered or natural gas-powered power plant, except it is power only by sunlight.

Below is a brief description of a typical solar PV farm that can be installed in an open field.
  1. Individual solar cells are connected inside the solar panel, and a large number of strings of solar panels are connected together on the open field to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity.
  2. Electronic equipment, called the "Inverter", converts direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity.
  3. This AC electricity is fed from the inverter to a power substation where the voltage is raised by a set of transformers to a level suitable to connect to the nearby power transmission line. The substation also has equipments to monitor the overall system performance.
  4. The transmission line carries the electricity generated from the solar farm to the power grid where the electricity can be consumed by the general public.
Solar modules can be made from a few types of technology:

  1. Crystalline Silicon - and it can be classified by the silicon technology used as either
    1. mono-crystalline silicon, or
    2. poly-crystalline silicon.

  2. Thin-film Technology - and it can be classified by the materials used as
    1. amorphous silicon,
    2. cadmium telluride, and
    3. copper indium gallium selenide ("CIGS")
These technologies have different trade-offs. For example, Crystalline Silicon technology generally requires much less surface area (roof space or open field space) to install than thin-film technology. This translates to lower cost in acquiring the open space for the installation. On the other hand, thin-film Technology can have an advantage in lower solar module cost in large-scale projects. We will be happy to discuss these detail tradeoffs with you in person.
  Concentrated Solar Power System

Legend has it that Archimedes used a "burning glass" to concentrate sunlight on the invading Roman fleet and repel them from Syracuse. Although historians continue to doubt the Archimedes story, in 1866, Auguste Mouchout was successful in using a parabolic trough to produce steam for the first solar steam engine.

Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems use lenses or mirrors to focus a large area of sunlight onto a small absorptive area. An absorptive material translates this solar energy to generate electricity. There are generally two types of concentrated solar system - concentrated photovoltaic, and concentrated solar thermal.

Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV)

In a concentrated photovoltaic system, electrical power is produced using photovoltaic effects when the concentrated sunlight is directed onto photovoltaic semiconductor solar cells. Sunlight is concentrated from 3X to 500X with some optical focusing system. At the receiving end, though regular crystalline solar cells can be used as a receptor, in most systems, multi-junction solar cells are favored over regular crystalline solar cells as they are more efficient to generate electricity. The efficiency of these solar cells generally rises with increased sunlight concentration.

Regular crystalline solar cell normally has a single p-n junction in the semiconductor material. Multi-junction solar cells are a series of p-n junctions stacked together inside the semiconductor material, and it is capable of absorbing the sunlight energy over a much wider light spectrum. One example is the Gallium Arsenide triple junction solar cell made of three layers of multiple p-n junctions: InGaP / InGaAs / Ge, as shown below.

Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST)

In a concentrated solar thermal system, sunlight is concentrated with an optical focusing system to heat up a transfer fluid. The energy from the heated transfer fluid is used to power a conventional turbine-based power generator to generate electricity.

A wide range of concentrated solar thermal technologies exists, including the parabolic trough, linear reflector, and solar power tower. Each concentration method is capable of producing high temperatures and correspondingly high thermodynamic efficiencies. Each of these systems varies in the way how they focus the sunlight and the way they track the Sun. These technologies all have different trade-offs. For example, a system with a higher concentration of sunlight directly translates to higher temperature and pressure of the transfer fluid, and generally speaking, this translates to higher construction cost. We will be happy to discuss these detail tradeoffs with you in person.

Below is a brief description of a typical parabolic trough concentrated solar thermal system:

It is constructed as a long parabolic mirror (usually coated with a reflective silver or metalized material) with a thermal absorptive tube running its length at the focal point. Sunlight is reflected by the mirror and concentrated on the absorptive tube. The mirror trough assemble is usually aligned on a north-south axis, and rotated to track the sun as it moves across the sky each day. Accurate tracking of the sun is important in order to focus the sunlight onto the absorptive tube throughout the day. A transfer fluid is pumped through the absorptive tube, and the solar heat gets absorbed by the transfer fluid. The energy from the transfer fluid is used to power a conventional turbine-based power generator to generate electricity.

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