Human settlements

Renewable energy

Solar photovoltaics 01: Photovoltaic trough concentration system

Renewable Energy Commercialisation in Australia, Australian Greenhouse Office, 2003
NOTE: The status of these projects will have changed since the time of publication, and project contacts may also have changed.

The photovoltaic trough concentration system reduces the cost of photovoltaic solar electricity by using a parabolic reflective trough that tracks the sun and concentrates light onto a much smaller number of high-efficiency solar cells.

Currently the cost of generating electricity using photovoltaic solar systems compares unfavourably with most other generating technologies. This is mainly caused by the cost of producing efficient solar cells, which are high-precision electronic components. One way of reducing this cost is to deploy concentrating photovoltaic solar systems that do not use many solar cells.

The photovoltaic trough (PV/T) concentration system was designed at the Australian National University (ANU) and installed by Solahart and ANU with the assistance of a $300,000 grant under the Renewable Energy Industry Program. The program has facilitated technology transfer from ANU to Solahart, which is the exclusive licensee.

Concentration systems can reduce the cost of photovoltaic electricity by using a large-area optical system to focus sunlight onto a much smaller area of cells. In principle, most of the expensive cell area is replaced by a cheap focusing system. The basis for the PV/T concentration system is a parabolic reflective trough which tracks the sun, concentrating light onto a line of cells. The few solar cells in the system (at the focal line of the trough) are a relatively small part of the total system cost. Thus the relatively expensive but highly efficient cells are used without undue economic penalty.

The 150m2 PV/T concentration system is situated at Rockingham, 40 kilometres south of Perth, Western Australia, and was commissioned in August 2000. The system comprises 80 suntracking glass mirrors, which reflect sunlight upwards onto a line of highly efficient solar cells mounted on the solar receivers. Each mirror delivers a concentration ratio of about 20 to 1. The solar receiver has an integrated passive heat sink to maintain the solar cells at a moderate temperature. The mirrors are supported by metal frames, which in turn are mounted on a 2-axis tracking mechanical structure. An open loop controller provides sun tracking and emergency stow provisions. The peak DC electrical power of the system under nameplate operating conditions (1kW/m2 direct beam, 25șC) is estimated to be 17kW. The DC electrical output is converted to AC, and fed into the grid.

The PV/T concentration system is operated by Western Power, which will benefit from operating a novel photovoltaic generation technology that will help diversify its portfolio of renewable energy sources for its 'green energy' customers.

The PV/T concentration system may be inspected at any time by visiting the Murdoch University Rockingham Campus, Dixon Road, Rockingham, Western Australia. The system is situated just south of the library. More information and pictures are available at


Overall length 79m
Mirror aperture 1600mm x 1170mm
Number of mirrors 80
Total reflector area 150m2
Concentration factor
Nominal cell efficiency 22 per cent under concentration
Power output per
trough module
215 W(peak)
(standard operating conditions)
Nominal power output of system 17kWpDC
Tracking mechanism 2-axis (accurate to within 0.50)
Tracking limits
- Tilt
- Roll
Net system efficiency 11.5 per cent

For more information please contact

John Smeltink and Andrew Blakers
Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems
Australian National University
Acton ACT 0200
Tel (02) 6125 5905
Fax (02) 6125 8873

Download PDF

Project details are also available for downloading as PDF files.

Before you download

Some documents are available as PDF files. You will need a PDF reader to view PDF files.
List of PDF readers 

If you are unable to access a publication, please contact us to organise a suitable alternative format.


   Links to another web site
   Opens a pop-up window