An example is the joint effort between Enel’s Research and EGP to develop increasingly innovative multiple junction thin-film PV panels, whose fabrication began on December 23rd 2011 at the new factory that Enel manages in Catania together with its partners Sharp and STMicrolectronics. Smart panels are manufactured by using integrated electronic systems that can enhance electricity generation while providing additional services (like anti-theft alarms and systems to monitor and protect against external events). Experiments and tests are taking place at EGP’s advanced solar Laboratory in Catania.
Equally aimed at improving production values, studies are being conducted to characterize the placement of panels as regards the different relevant factors. Like latitude, altitude, ground features, possible shadowing, etc., considered in relation with the various available photovoltaic technologies.
In the field of concentrated photovoltaic, EGP is participating in the SCOOP and Apollon projects, aimed at achieving and testing prototypes with high efficiency cells (42% production), manufactured in Italy. Also, tests are being performed on optical systems with a concentration level of 1,000 suns per single cell.
As regards the integration between photovoltaic systems and other renewable technologies, the first hybrid photovoltaic-geothermal plant was developed at Stillwater, in Nevada (USA) at the end of 2011. The project integrates the 33 MW of the already existing binary cycle geothermal facility with a photovoltaic peak of 24 MW, so that production can better match energy demand, also lowering costs and reducing environmental impacts.
Moreover, studies are being conducted to develop other hybrid projects, like the one that combines photovoltaic generation with hydroelectric plants already online.
Finally, the company is planning an advanced monitoring system aimed at analysing plant production in real time by comparing it to the expected theoretical generation. An advanced analysis of the information coming from the plant will be carried out thanks to a system equipped with sensor that can examine every relevant parameter (radiation, wind speed, temperature, energy generated from panels, etc.), providing accurate information on possible abnormalities that can thus be proactively repaired and maintained.