SUNLAB awarded NSERC SPG grant

Professor Karin Hinzer has been awarded a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Strategic Parnership Grants for Projects program. The project, entitled “ASPIRE – Arctic Solar Photovoltaics: Innovation for Renewable Energy” is based on a long-standing collaboration between Dr. Karin Hinzer, Dr. Henry Schriemer and Dr. Joan Haysom from the SUNLAB at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Mariana Bertoni from Arizona State University and Dr. Michael Ross from Yukon University. Project collaborators include Morgan Solar, Spectrafy and the Canadian High Arctic Research Station.

Solar photovoltaic energy technology is globally established and effective, especially in high solar resource regions, largely in fixed-tilt monofacial silicon photovoltaic panel installations. Outside these regions commercial adoption rates decline following the available solar resource. However, there is a case for photovoltaics in the Arctic:

  1. the solar resource is similar to lower latitudes due to very long summer days;
  2. silicon photovoltaics are more efficient in cooler temperatures; and
  3. displacement of diesel fuel is an economic and environmental advantage.

A disruptive technology ecosystem receiving much attention is silicon bifacial photovoltaic panels. Bifacial panels receive sunlight on both front and rear faces, but are only slightly more expensive than monofacial panels. These panels can harvest energy arriving direct from the sun, and from the sky and from cloud edges and from nearby building facades or bright snow-covered ground. Adding dual-axis trackers means the panels can be pointed continuously into the best orientation to generate maximum solar power, around the entire horizon. Conventional silicon solar cells are nearing their practicable performance limit, ~17-18%. Novel advanced bifacial silicon cells using pyramidal surface texturing and amorphous|crystalline heterojunctions hold good promise for efficiencies beyond 21% and will be designed, fabricated, and field tested on trackers. Comprehensive numerical models for design support and system yield forecasting will be established. The goal of ASPIRE is to double the yield of fixed-tilt monofacial in the Arctic using advanced tracked bifacial cells.