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SolarCool featured as part of the 'Science to the Rescue' online series

Winner of a special prize in the SFI Zero Emissions Challenge, the SolarCool project (co-funded by Department of Foreign Affairs) is improving solar panel performance in arid climate conditions.

Team: Dr David McCloskey (TCD) and Connell Foley (Concern Worldwide)

The Challenge: Developments in the solar power industry over the past 50 years have led to improvements in both efficiency and economic viability of solar power installations; for example, the cost has dropped from an average of 76.67 USD/Watt in 1977 to 0.37 USD/Watt in 2017. Large-scale solar PV is now becoming competitive with other renewable technologies such as offshore wind. This project aims to address the major issues associated with the operation of solar cells in high ambient temperature arid environments for prolonged periods of time. These areas have particularly high resources of solar energy up to 2500 kWhr/m2/ year, which over twice that of Northern Europe or Ireland. Ambient temperature in these climates can reach above 50oC during the day and -20oC at night, and the solar Panels themselves can easily reach temperatures over 100oC. We are working together with Concern Worldwide to ensure that this technology can have societal impact in developing economies in Africa, where over 64% of the continent can be classified as arid or semi-arid.   

The Solution: In this project we will take a novel approach of addressing overheating issues in solar photovoltaics at both the solar cell and solar panel level. Silicon based solar cells are currently designed to operate optimally at 25oC typical in European climates, and in arid desert environments efficiency can be up to 30% lower than rated values. What’s more, average module operational lifetime is significantly reduced.  This project will develop technology to reduce operating temperature of solar panels in this environment and thus further lower cost by increasing efficiency and operational lifetime to enable large-scale uptake of the technology.