February 18, 2008 Research and development has commenced to create a new type of solar power plant employing technology that would allow it to produce electricity even during periods of no sunlight. The solar plant will use LETG (Light Electric Thermal Generator), a hybrid solar and thermal energy technology that generates energy by heating up liquids that circulate on the surface of a solar panel.
The innovative project is the work of Global Warming Solutions, a developer of technologies aimed at mitigating the effects of global warming. The company plans to create a small prototype plant, combining LETG with a low temperature thermal turbine, that will have a capacity of up to 1MW.
Existing commercial photovoltaic cells (PVCs) transform only small parts of the visible and infra-red spectrums into electricity. In an attempt to compensate for this deficiency, current PVC designs employ cascade construction principles.
LETG model incorporates a hybrid PVC cell that contains a layer of liquid luminophor that actively absorbs solar radiation in the infra-red range, maximizing the use of the solar spectrum and providing a means by which to harvest thermal energy.
“The LETG produces both electrical and thermal energy,” said Dr. Alexander Kornaraki, Chief Operating Officer of Global Warming Solutions. “Electrical energy is produced by a photovoltaic process and thermal energy is gathered by the LETG heat-transfer medium. We will now be adding a low temperature heat to energy converter that will produce even more electricity from the LETG.”
The technology also two-sided silicon photocells to increase transformation efficiency. Not only is direct sunlight transformed but also sunlight reflected from ground surfaces, house roofs or special reflecting surfaces, placed behind the PVC. According to the company, preliminary experiments show that electric power of the hybrid two-sided module is increased approximately 1.5 to 2 times as compared to traditional PVC due in part to the application of the liquid luminophor and also in part to applications of special optical coverage.
The rated, levelized cost of developing the LETG plant is projected to be up to 2.2 times less than the levelized cost of a conventional solar thermal plant. Additionally, transforming solar energy into electricity more efficiency will result in a decrease in the cost of solar power.
LETG modules could also be used in residential or industrial scenarios and because of their efficiency, could be used in any geographic or climatic zone says Global Warming Solutions.
No timeframe has been released for the project at this stage. The new plant is part of Global Warming Solutions’ overall aim to target three key areas to help reduce the extent of climate change: Clean Energy, Carbon Control, and Water Purification. With carbon dioxide levels higher now than at any point in the last 650,000 years, the investment in clean energy is most certainly a valuable one.