Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells arranged in complex 3D leaflike configurations—referred to as a solar tree—can potentially collect more sunlight than traditionally used flat configurations. It is hypothesized that this could be because of two reasons. First, the 3D space can be utilized to increase the overall surface area over which the sunlight may be captured. Second, as opposed to traditional flat panel configurations where the capture efficiency decreases dramatically for shallow angles of incidence, the capture efficiency of a solar tree is hampered little by shallow angles of incidence due to the 3D orientation of the solar leaves. In this paper, high fidelity Monte Carlo simulation of radiation transport is conducted to gain insight into whether the above hypotheses are true. The Monte Carlo simulations provide local radiation flux distributions in addition to global radiation flux summaries. The studies show that except for near-normal solar incidence angles, solar trees capture sunlight more effectively than flat panels—often by more than a factor of 5. The Monte Carlo results were also interpolated to construct a daily sunlight capture profile both for midwinter and midsummer for a typical North American city. During winter, the solar tree improved sunlight capture by 227%, while in summer the improvement manifested was 54%.

References

References
1.
“National Renewable Energy Laboratory.” Available at: www.nrel.gov
2.
Lee
,
R.
,
1978
,
Forest Microclimatology
,
Columbia University
,
New York
.
3.
Komp
,
R. J.
,
2001
,
Practical Photovoltaics: Electricity From Solar Cells
,
Aatec Publications, Ann Arbor
,
MI
.
4.
Modest
,
M. F.
,
2013
,
Radiative Heat Transfer
,
3rd ed.
,
Academic Press, Waltham
,
MA
.
5.
Brown
,
P. S.
, and
Pandolfo
,
J. P.
,
1969
, “
An Equivalent Obstacle Model for the Computation of Radiative Flux in Obstructed Layers
,”
Agricultural Meteorol.
,
6
(
6
), pp.
407
421
.10.1016/0002-1571(69)90009-0
6.
Mann
,
J. E.
,
Curry
,
G. L.
, and
Sharpe
,
P. J. H.
,
1979
, “
Light Interception by Isolated Plants
,”
Agricultural Meteorol.
,
20
(
3
), pp.
205
214
.10.1016/0002-1571(79)90021-9
7.
Bartelink
,
H. H.
,
1998
, “
Radiation Interception by Forest Trees: A Simulation Study on Effects of Stand Density and Foliage Clustering on Absorption and Transmission
,”
Ecol. Model.
,
105
(
2,3
), pp.
213
225
.10.1016/S0304-3800(97)00165-8
8.
Perttunen
,
J.
,
Sievannen
,
R.
, and
Nikinmaa
,
E.
,
1998
, “
LIGNUM: A Model Combining the Structure and the Functioning of Trees
,”
Ecol. Model.
,
108
(
1–3
), pp.
189
198
.10.1016/S0304-3800(98)00028-3
9.
Abraha
,
M. G.
, and
Savage
,
M. J.
,
2010
, “
Validation of a Solar Radiation Interception Model for Tree Crops
,”
Agric., Ecosyst. Environ.
,
139
(
4
), pp.
636
652
.10.1016/j.agee.2010.10.010
10.
“American Museum of Natural History’s Young Naturalist Award Winner’s Report.” Available at: http://www.amnh.org/nationalcenter/youngnaturalistawards/2011/aidan.html
11.
Asai
,
Y.
, and
Toshiaki
,
Y.
,
2010
, “
A Novel Photovoltaic Module Assembled Three-Dimensionally
,”
35th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference
,
Honolulu
,
HI
, June 20–25, Paper No. 708-V11.
12.
Burgermeister
,
J
.,
2007
, “
Introducing the Solar Tree
.” Available at: www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2007/12/introducing-the-solar-tree-50934
13.
Mazumder
,
S.
, and
Kersch
,
A.
,
2000
, “
A Fast Monte-Carlo Scheme for Thermal Radiation in Semiconductor Processing Applications
,”
Numer. Heat Transfer, Part B
,
37
(
2
), pp.
185
199
.10.1080/104077900275486
14.
Mazumder
,
S
.,
2006
, “
Methods to Accelerate Ray Tracing in the Monte Carlo Method for Surface-to-Surface Radiation Transport
,”
ASME J. Heat Transfer
,
128
(
9
), pp.
945
952
.10.1115/1.2241978
15.
Palik
,
E. D.
,
1997
,
Handbook of Optical Constants of Solids
,
Amsterdam
,
The Netherlands
.
16.
Mazumder
,
S.
, and
Ravishankar
,
M.
,
2012
, “
General Procedure for Calculation of Diffuse View Factors Between Arbitrary Planar Polygons
,”
Int. J. Heat Mass Transfer
,
55
(
23
), pp.
7330
7335
.10.1016/j.ijheatmasstransfer.2012.07.066
17.
National Solar Radiation Database. Available at: http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/1991-2010/
18.
National Oceanic, Atmospheric Admistration Solar Calculator. Available at: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/solcalc/azel.html
19.
Breda
,
N. J. J.
,
2003
, “
Ground-Based Measurements of Leaf Area Index: A Review of Methods, Instruments, and Current Controversies
,”
J. Exp. Bot.
,
54
(
392
), pp.
2403
2417
.10.1093/jxb/erg263
You do not currently have access to this content.