Power Electronics Design Implications of Novel Photovoltaic Collector Geometries and Their Application for Increased Energy Harvest



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The declining cost of photovoltaic (PV) modules has enabled the vision of ubiquitous photovoltaic (PV) power to become feasible. Emerging PV technologies are facilitating the creation of intentionally non-flat PV modules, which create new applications for this sustainable energy generation currently not possible with the traditional rigid, flat silicon-glass modules. However, since the photovoltaic cells are no longer coplanar, there are significant new requirements for the power electronics necessary to convert the native form of electricity into a usable form and ensure maximum energy harvest. Non-uniform insolation from cell-to-cell gives rise to non-uniform current density in the PV material, which limits the ability to create series-connected cells without bypass diode or other ways to shunt current, which is well known in the maximum power tracking literature. This thesis presents a modeling approach to determine and quantify the variations in generation of energy due to intentionally non-flat PV geometries. This will enable the power electronics circuitry to be optimized to harvest maximum energy from PV pixel elements ? clusters of PV cells with similar operating characteristics.

This thesis systematically compares different geometries with identical two-dimensional projection "footprints" for energy harvest throughout the day. The results show that for the same footprint, a semi-cylindrical surface harvests more energy over a typical day than a flat plate. The modeling approach is then extended to demonstrate that by using non flat geometries for PV panel, the availability of a remotely located stand-alone power system can be increased when compared to a flat panel of same footprint. These results have broad application to a variety of energy scavenging scenarios in which either total energy harvested needs to be maximized or unusual geometries for the PV active surfaces are required, including building-integrated PV. This thesis develops the analysis of the potential energy harvest gain for advanced non-planar PV collectors as a necessary first step towards the design of the power electronics circuits and control algorithms to take advantage of the new opportunities of conformal and non-flat PV collectors.