Editorial Feature

New Solar PV Technology - 3D Solar Photovoltaic Leaves

3D PV Leaves Track & Park develop park sites for trackers on city fringes
locate on highways for e-car battery exchange Credit: ANU.edu.au

The impact of solar panel technology is visible to all in our carbon constrained society. The pursuit of the optimum arrangement of solar panels is of critical importance to achieve robust solar panel constructions.

A recent development has taken significant strides in solar panel installations via an innovative 3d arrangement from the Australian National University – 3D PV solar leaves.

It is not so much as incorporating nature’s leaves, as it is more to do with the overall arrangement of the solar cells in general; in which the 3D solar cells can be arranged as double-layer orthogonal-offset panel arrays for optimal efficiency.

Ross Edgar, PhD, at ANU was kind enough to explain the thinking behind this great technology:

"In contemplating the same environmental risk factors affecting solar panels, I thought vents between panels would be a good thing but didn’t like increasing the envelope of installations too much – it was then it occurred to me side-by-side panels could be moved up or down to make vents arbitrarily large."

Solar tracking systems should ideally target daily household needs, e.g. 25–35 m2 of PV generating 20 – 40kWh of electricity a day.


Panels in layers elevation 15 to horizon. Image Credit: ANU.edu.au

"The 3D layer structure can only be used by a system that tracks the sun, so in that sense it is less flexible. On the other hand, only a very small minority of us have the roof, orientation and lack of shade necessary for efficient solar photovoltaic systems. Due to the way cities have developed and their shade and height restrictions; it is unlikely tracking systems will become ubiquitous in urban settings. On the other hand, all consumers will benefit from innovations that make ownership of solar power sources more accessible." Ross Edgar PhD, ANU.

With rooftop and backyard solar tracking systems becoming more and more difficult to incorporate to the masses, 3D PV Solar technology has a different idea of how to incorporate this technology, as Ross Edgar explains:

"A major contributor to solar accessibility will be the development of specialist parks around city fringes that lease sites to owners for grid connecting their solar systems. 3D solar tracking systems will on average use six times less photovoltaic area than low cost non-tracking systems and are more compatible with dual land uses including agriculture. This means solar parks can offer owners the most cost competitive location in terms of land rates, sunlight and subsidies for their investment dollar on a global basis. There is no physical reason a Londoner should not put their solar tracker in Valencia for example, if only sunlight quality mattered. By installing common infrastructure solar parks also minimize the cost of having services such as internet to monitor private electricity production or security and maintenance options."

The great thing about solar power is that it is one of the renewable technologies that can improve with new innovation and can be developed and transformed into different forms.

So it’s looking good for the future of solar technology and 3D PV Solar Leaves, as Ross Edgar states that;

"In 5 years I expect there will be parks on city fringes installing garage sized 3D solar units each generating in the order of 20 to 30kW hours of electricity per day, which is about the minimum a household needs. None of us will be chained to a particular house to individually generate the renewable energy equivalent of what we use."

Reduced drag surface of 7x7 Double Layer Array - Image Credit ANU.edu.au.

I believe that this technology will really take off and credit goes to the team at ANU that has been researching this technology. Many thanks to Ross Edgar for answering my questions and be sure to like our AZoNetwork Facebook page and tell us what you think of this technology. You can also follow us on Twitter and ask any questions to our dedicated editorial team using the comments section below.

Kris Walker

Written by

Kris Walker

Kris has a BA(hons) in Media & Performance from the University of Salford. Aside from overseeing the editorial and video teams, Kris can be found in far flung corners of the world capturing the story behind the science on behalf of our clients. Outside of work, Kris is finally seeing a return on 25 years of hurt supporting Manchester City.


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    Hello Ross Edgar - What is the increase in efficiency with 3D panels set up compared to the existing conventional setting in 2D for a given area. Which is more important the sun light or the sun's heat ??

    • ross edgar ross edgar Australia says:

      Thank you for such incisive questions. The last figure in the article shows over 20% more (i.e. 0.82 x 1.2 = 1) PV panels could be placed on a tracking mechanism with a 3D arrangement that has panel side length size equal to twice the distance between the two panel layers. That means the tracking mechanism is working 20% more efficiently and overall the system is about 9% more efficient. Alternatively the system could be uprated to withstand 10% higher (i.e. 1.1 x 1.1 = 1.2) wind conditions because force is proportional to wind velocity squared. This efficiency gain is virtually independent of the area but only certain sized panels are commercially available.

      For PV systems light (without shade) is very important and heat is very bad. Like any electronic system, PV systems work best when cool. High performance cells lose 0.4% efficiency per degree Celsius which adds up 15% or more peak energy loss in summer. The 3D arrangement is better ventilated for cooling and should therefore perform better and reduce heat stress significantly.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoCleantech.com.

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