Boeing signs CPV contract

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Boeing has signed a multi-million dollar contract to supply concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) cell assemblies to an Australian company that produces renewable solar energy.

Under the contract with Solar Systems of Hawthorn, Victoria, Boeing will deliver 500,000 concentrator solar cell assemblies for use at power stations that generate renewable energy for small, remote Australian communities. Spectrolab of Sylmar, California, a wholly owned Boeing subsidiary, will manufacture the cells. Deliveries will begin later this year.

According to Boeing, the solar cell assemblies will be capable of generating more than 11 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power 3,500 average-sized homes.

This contract with Solar Systems continues an earlier relationship between the two companies. In April, Spectrolab and Solar Systems brought the world's first full-scale ultra high efficiency 35 kilowatt solar generator online in Australia. According to Boeing, the system created a new benchmark for solar concentrator systems both in system efficiency and cost, and showed promise for the future of renewable energy.

Solar Systems' concentrators resemble a satellite dish with curved reflecting mirrors shaped to concentrate sunlight onto the solar cells. A sun-tracking mechanism allows electricity to be produced from morning to late afternoon. Small, remote communities are using a number of concentrator dishes in "solar farms" for energy during the day and switching to diesel generators at night.

A significant advantage of concentrator systems is that fewer solar cells are required to achieve a specific power output. Large areas of semiconductor materials now can be replaced with lower cost concentration devices. The higher cost of ultra high efficiency multi-junction cells is offset by the need for fewer cells. Because multi-junction cells are so efficient, only a fraction of the cell area is required to generate the same power as crystalline silicon or thin-film flat-plate designs.