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Case Western Reserve, Replex Plastics Study Durability of Photovoltaic Systems

Case Western Reserve University will collaborate with Replex Plastics and embark on research to increase light intensity using mirrors on flat-panel modules for use in solar photovoltaic energy systems.

For the same, they will receive $899,818 in funding, which is a part of the Ohio Third Frontier Photovoltaics Program Awards for 2011.

Photovoltaic systems produce renewable, cost effective energy by harnessing the sun's energy. The process of capturing the sun’s energy can be made more cost-sensible by augmenting typical flat panels with mirrors. However, it is critical to clarify if or not by reflecting the ultraviolet rays, mirrors reduce durability of mirror-augmented photovoltaic (MAPV) systems?

Finding a solution to the same is the two-year project named Mirror-Augmented Solar Photovoltaic Systems: Durability and Lifetime Validation, that seeks to ensure a long and dependable lifetime for MAPV systems by recognizing the degradation mechanisms of the photovoltaic components and materials.

Replex Plastics, will aid Case Western Reserve in testing MAPV system’s products. Solar mirrors developed by Replex possess the potential to double the annual kilowatt-hour turnout of the existing commercial flat panel modules.

On an added per-watt peak basis, Replex mirrors cost a tenth of the modules. However, since degradation of the mirror-augmented PV was detected in the Carissa Plains of California in the 1980s, there have been concerns about its durability.

Case Western Reserve’s department of Materials Science and Engineering will study the MAPV system for the degradation of its materials. Four technical areas will be addressed in the research. They are: optimization of the MAPV system designed for both tracking and fixed-mount PV strategies, testing the quality and durability of the mirrors to withstand environmental exposure and solar radiation for over 20 years, qualification and testing of PV modules with mirror-augmentation from various suppliers to tolerate higher solar radiation with slight or no rise in degradation rate, and qualification and testing of MAPV systems.

Owner and President of Replex Plastics, Marj Schuetz is optimistic about the project and stated that the success of the project will benefit Ohio's growing PV industry and could be making an international impact as well.

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