Waste heat generated during daytime operation of a solar module will raise its temperature and reduce cell efficiency. In addition to thermalization and carrier recombination, one major source of excess heat in modules is the parasitic absorption of light with sub-bandgap energy. Parasitic absorption can be prevented if sub-bandgap radiation is reflected away from the module. We report on the design considerations and projected changes to module energy yield for photonic reflectors capable of reflecting a portion of sub-bandgap radiation while maintaining or improving transmission of light with energy greater than the semiconductor bandgap. Using a previously developed, self-consistent opto-electro-thermal finite-element simulation, we calculate the total additional energy generated by a module, including various photonic reflectors, and decompose these benefits into thermal and optical effects. We show that the greatest total energy yield improvement comes from photonic mirrors designed for the outside of the glass, but that mirrors placed between the glass and the encapsulant can have significant thermal benefit. We then show that optimal photonic mirror design requires consideration of all angles of incidence, despite unequal amounts of radiation arriving at each angle. We find that optimized photonic mirrors will be omnidirectional in the sense that they have beneficial performance, regardless of the angle of incidence of radiation. By fulfilling these criteria, photonic mirrors can be used at different geographic locations or different tilt angles than their original optimization conditions with only marginal changes in performance. We show designs that improve energy output in Golden, Colorado by 3.7% over a full year. This work demonstrates the importance of considering real-world irradiance and weather conditions when designing optical structures for solar applications.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank Dana Dement for providing Al2O3 optical data. We thank the Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office for funding through the Solar Graduate Research Internship program hosted at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This work was partially supported by the University of Minnesota. This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC36-08GO28308 with Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, the Manager and Operator of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Funding provided by U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. The U.S. Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the U.S. Government retains a nonexclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, worldwide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this work, or allow others to do so, for U.S. Government purposes.