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Heliotube concentrators have integrated tracking built into the panel, allowing more sunlight to reach a smaller photovoltaic surface area through the day.
The same size as conventional panels, it doubles efficiency by tracking the sun.

A Pasadena, Calif., company has applied to patent a new solar panel that can produce electricity at half the cost of conventional rooftop panels.

According to the MIT Technology Review, Soliant Energy's new Heliotube panel produces the same amount of energy as traditional solar arrays used in residential electrical systems, however a unique design reduces the amount of expensive photovoltaic material by almost 90 percent. Semiconductor-based photovoltaic (PV) material is needed to perform the actual conversion of solar energy to electricity inside a solar array, but the material is costly to produce.

Commercial solar energy production systems typically use mirrors and lenses to focus sunlight on the PV surfaces, making for more efficient energy production with a smaller PV surface area. In addition, panels are often mounted on posts that can pivot to follow the movements of the sun throughout the day, further concentrating the amount of sunlight reaching the PV material. However, these more efficient designs with moving mechanisms are impractical for smaller residential systems, which usually rely on a limited number of stationary, roof-mounted panels.

The Heliotube design incorporates lenses, mirrors and movable panels that track the sun. However, all of these components are encased in a rectangular acrylic case that is the same size as a conventional rooftop panel. The 50-pound panels are equipped with trough-shaped concentrators that move throughout the day. Aided by inexpensive optics, the mirrored troughs intensify the amount of sunlight reaching smaller PV strips located at the bottom of each trough.

The first-generation Heliotube panels, due to start shipping later this year, pivot only on one axis, limiting their ability to track the sun's movement. The company is designing a new version which will divide the troughs into shorter sections that can move independently to track the sun from side to side and from top to bottom, increasing the efficiency. The panels are self-powered and do not require alignment, according to the company.

Soliant's founder and CTO, Brad Hines, who formerly worked at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the company's goal is to offer consumers a "grid equivalent" cost of $0.06 per kilowatt hour in three years, not including tax incentives. "In industry terms, this means well under $1.50 per watt,” Hines said.

Soliant's technology partners include Boeing Spectrolab, MIT, Sandia National Labs, and SunEdison.

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Installation Crooks.
By Mitch101 on 5/14/2007 9:24:44 AM , Rating: 2
I priced out solar panels on my home some time ago and while their should be a savings involved the installers of solar panels are the ones who are screwing this as being a good deal and idea.

Installers are charging rediculous install prices and telling the consumer that you get a portion back from the government through a tax deduction and through selling electricity back to the electric company. According to my estimate it would take 10 years to start recouperating the costs from doing this and I dont recall how long a solar panel lasts (30 years maybe) but as what I remember it wasnt worth it because we didnt anticipate living there that long.

The Install costs were so incredibly rediculous on the install that I contemplated installing them myself.

I want to do this but Im probably more peeved by the installers trying to make so much money on doing this that they are just exploiting the people who want to be green. Its like they want a cut of your profits for the first couple of years for themselves. There is a similar problem in house flipping and some agencies overcharging as if they should also get a cut of the house flip even though they dont risk a dime out of thier pocket.

I had a plumber try to tell me that hooking up a jacuzzi tub drain (Not even the electrical) would cost extra and they wanted $1000.00 to do it. The walls were already studded out. Two other places wanted around the same. I did it myself for $23.00 and that included buying the glue and a special tool and I had to cut the pipe twice. Then heard a plumber in home depot complain how they always give quotes on jobs and people never want the work done. Hmmm $977.00 savings difference and about a hours worth of work for me as Im not a pro.

Maybe its that most people are tired of Contractors ripping people off. I think you would see more solar panels if there were more honest people doing the installs.

RE: Installation Crooks.
By psychobriggsy on 5/14/2007 10:16:54 AM , Rating: 2
According to my estimate it would take 10 years to start recouperating the costs from doing this and I dont recall how long a solar panel lasts (30 years maybe) but as what I remember it wasnt worth it because we didnt anticipate living there that long.

There's an idea in the UK to set up long-term "mortgages" on long-term green energy installations, so when you sell the house, you also sell on the house's green-energy mortgage. This should mean that people are more willing to pay up front for such installations.

Then heard a plumber in home depot complain how they always give quotes on jobs and people never want the work done.

What they did over here (electricians and plumbers) was require that certain house work (bathrooms, electrical, extensions) had to be done by an accredited person. Talk about getting the law to protect your own nice little profiteering racket! So whilst you could still do it yourself, it effectively makes selling the house difficult. What it means is that plumbers charge up to £120 ($240) an hour in some areas.

RE: Installation Crooks.
By theapparition on 5/14/2007 11:28:58 AM , Rating: 2
The US is a little different. As far as I know, you are allowed to do any repairs/plumbing/electrial, etc to your home, as long as you follow code. You are not, however, allowed to go to your neighbor's house and do those same installs. When the house is resold, depending on the jurisdiction, ANY work may be questioned during a home inspection, be it your work, or a professional's.

RE: Installation Crooks.
By KristopherKubicki on 5/14/2007 7:28:28 PM , Rating: 2
Getting a permit is what varies state by state, county by county, city by city.

Where I live, as long as the work isn't structural, you can usually do a lot of the work yourself. You can have your friends assist, and even give advice I believe. However, most people who do the work themselves do not get a permit or an inspector. This is where it can actually get criminal.

Without a permit you run the risk of having an inspector deny your work completely when you try to resell your house. In addition, there are legal reasons you'd want to get a permit anyway -- say some fault electrical burns your house down and kills someone.

If you're already spending tens of thousands of dollars on a job like this, it's completely worth it to get it professionally done. If you're an EE or something, then by all means you should be able to do it yourself, BUT make sure you're following all the code to the letter and get a permit to do it.

RE: Installation Crooks.
By Grast on 5/14/2007 1:42:19 PM , Rating: 2

I had the same idea about doing the installation myself. However in California if you look at the rebate requirements, you need to be an authorized installer in order to qualify for the state rebate. This means that basically do-it-your self if out of the question.

I have found this requirement was added to the bill which established the rebate in order to ensure that union labor was being used for all installations.

Lovely huh.


RE: Installation Crooks.
By Mitch101 on 5/14/2007 4:06:51 PM , Rating: 2
Geez. Thanks for pointing that out.

I used to live in Jersey so it might have just been Jersey being crooked. Now that Im in NC it might be a different story but I have to question the Home Owners Association as they might have some sort of gripe. But we plan on selling in a few years and moving further out into the country where we wont be bound by any restrictions. Here is to hoping they make even more improvements before I wind up doing something like this.

RE: Installation Crooks.
By TheGreek on 5/15/2007 4:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
"I used to live in Jersey so it might have just been Jersey being crooked. "

Not just, but certainly the leader.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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