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The University of Southampton

Photovoltaics and Micro-grids

Photovoltaics have become the ‘public face' of renewables in the UK in recent years. Our work is looking at applications that are sustainable both on and off-grid for today and into the future.  

Traditional electricity networks are based around large scale generators (fossil fuel, hydro, nuclear) supplying a centralised grid. An alternative approach of generation of electricity at the point of use reduces transmission losses and can provide strengthening to the network. This form of localised (distributed) generation can exist as a micro-grid which may exist in parallel or separately from the utility network. Our work in micro-grids encompasses both grid connected (distributed generation) and off-grid micro-grids. The latter relates in particular to our work in energy for development in Africa where the provision of rural community electricity drives business opportunity and therefore economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Our grid connected research is interested in Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BiPV) and in particular the added value that PV can provide in systems such as atria. Here the PV acts not only as an electrical generator, but as the weatherproof barrier and solar control / daylighting regulator.

We have been involved in the development of novel plasma deposition, thin film cells and the testing of PV system components, most notably inverters and dc connectors. The BiPV PV systems on the University campus are used for teaching and research related to dc mismatch effects. 

Current fundamental research is looking  at approaches to light harvesting and capture. 

(a) Can we ‘mimick' photosynthesis  by modifying the surface of a silicon solar cell?

(b) Can we ‘trap light' within a solar cell using photonics? Such devices have the potential to achieve greater light harvesting therefore increasing the efficiency of photovoltaic solar cells.


PV-battery container based energy centre, Bambouti, Cameroon’
Energy Centre Bambouti
Kitonyoni, Kenya
PV-battery-diesel microgrid system
Used for accelerated lifetime testing of solar cells
Light soaking test rig for
  • Solar simulator for I-V characterisation of solar cells.
  • 7.2 kWp vertical PV façade of 24 strings to enable mismatch studies.
  • Accelerated lifetime testing, light soaking rig with temperature controlled stage.
  • PV roof tile (shingle) array for temperature profiling.
  • Infra-Tec VarioCam 1.2MP Infra-Red camera for fault detection in PV arrays.
  • Inverter test facility for G59, G77 testing.
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