Non-Reflective Solar Panels for Solar Arrays in Glint/Glare Sensitive Locations
Over 120 GW of solar energy potential exists on idle lands at, or adjacent to, public airports, small private and military airfields and training areas in the United States. A barrier to full and efficient implementation of solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays on these lands and structures is the risk of ocular impact to aircrew or tower personnel caused by glint or glare. Creating industry and regulatory acceptance of a technology-based solution to solar PV glint/glare would help overcome these barriers and extend renewable energy implementation efforts.
Proven materials and design elements can be combined with new solar panel assembly techniques to produce a non-reflective commercial PV panel. Solar module material stacks are non-homogeneous; making optical properties complex and best characterized through empirical measurement using specialized equipment and methods. Comprehensive developmental testing of these new panel constructions is also needed to achieve designs that meet industry standards for conventional modules.
The specialized equipment and methods needed for PV module optical characterization and performance testing are resident in the Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) PV Systems Evaluation Laboratory (PSEL). Optical characterization will quantify reflectivity characteristics and low-reflectivity performance benefits, and will aid in understanding materials and methods to further optimize modules. Potential market benefits include reduced costs through elimination of time-consuming, costly solar glare hazard analaysis and mitigation.
PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES
Some solar PV modules on the market today utilize anti-reflective coatings or surface texturing of glass panels to reduce panel reflectivity and increase light (i.e. photon) capture. These techniques are limited in their ability to reduce module glint/glare and typically do not apply a comprehensive approach that addresses all of the exposed surface materials. Additionally, glass surface texturing can encourage dust/dirt collection, which degrades performance and increases the need for panel cleaning. Nishati is taking an holistic approach to solar panel design for low glint and glare applications that considers a wide range of solar panel materials, design details, components, and surface texturing. The resulting design is anticipated to maximize performance while minimizing reflectivity.
The testing support provided under this voucher will help to accelerate development and transition of Nishati's Endurance™ PV modules from the military and portable solar markets to commercial market entry. Optically characterizing solar modules that are optimized for low reflectivity will provide the data necessary to obviate project-specific glint/glare analysis and to make technology comparisons. Reducing panel glint/glare also typically provides the co-benefit of increasing panel solar energy harvest and array power production. This will be evaluated in the performance testing. Ultimately, enabling solar PV installation in glint/glare constrained locations or aesthetically sensitive areas has potential to greatly expand solar implementation with minimal impact to land availability and, thereby, to support U.S. and Department of Energy renewable energy goals.