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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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RE: At that price
By RogueSpear on 5/14/2007 10:24:57 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I can envision a day when we will have some sort of photovoltaic roof shingle.

It's already being done, though I have no idea about the specifics such as material and labor costs, efficiency, etc.
http://www.oksolar.com/roof/
http://www.etmsolar.com/roof.htm
http://www.alphasolar.com/alpha_solar_062.htm


RE: At that price
By therealnickdanger on 5/14/2007 10:45:09 AM , Rating: 2
My dad is an architect and has seen it installed on a couple houses he's done. I think he said it was about $40K more than standard roofing and was only good for roughly 40-60% power generation with optimal placement (here in Minnesota, that is). Every house and location is different, of course.

I would really like to have solar on my house - I'd love to be able to be OTG (off the grid), but at current efficiency levels and my desire to live where I do, solar power has to make some more dramatic strides in cost/performance.


RE: At that price
By Screwballl on 5/14/2007 11:26:01 AM , Rating: 2
I would love to go with something like that but when you see a hurricane or strong tropical storm every few years here (FL), I can imagine the sticks and debris trashing your nice new solar roof and the insurance not paying out because it is a non-standard roofing installation and not covered by the policy. I wouldn't mind a removable group of panels like the story mentions though.. plus would help once the storm has passed and you have (some) power while everyone else is eating up gas with a generator or no power at all.
I have already been looking into this as an add-on for existing power and backup for after the storm knocks out power for a week or more.


RE: At that price
By ZmaxDP on 5/14/2007 1:25:09 PM , Rating: 2
Don't go "off the grid." The moment you do you need some other form of storage, think batteries. Batteries are very harmful to the environment. The best solution is to hook up solar panels to the grid as well. The grid is a massive storage system for electrical energy. Don't waste your money on batteries when you can just run your meter backwards during the day and forwards at night...


RE: At that price
By TheGreek on 5/14/2007 4:46:07 PM , Rating: 2
Does anyone know why passive solar heat is not addressed all that often? What's the bid deal about building some home made panels and placing all the heat into your cellar? If it gets too hot open some windows.

If I can't afford to live OTG why not at least be OTG on sunny days?


RE: At that price
By Ringold on 5/14/2007 5:47:37 PM , Rating: 2
"If it gets too hot open some windows"

I'm glad some hippies are willing to take it on their sweaty chins, but here in Florida, thanks but no thanks. I'll let my electric meter spin like a buzz saw while I kick back in the comfort of 77º and watch my horribly inefficient big screen HDTV while two computers run F@H 24-7... And still I end up with a manageable bill. For me, at least.


RE: At that price
By MarkHark on 5/14/2007 9:53:20 PM , Rating: 2
In fact, using lots of roof panels to collect solar energy would at most make your home cooler, not hotter.


RE: At that price
By TheGreek on 5/15/2007 4:42:48 PM , Rating: 2
""If it gets too hot open some windows"

I'm glad some hippies are willing to take it on their sweaty chins, but here in Florida, thanks but no thanks."

The original statement may indicate the local of the person, not his beliefs.

" I'll let my electric meter spin like a buzz saw while I kick back in the comfort of 77º and watch my horribly inefficient big screen HDTV while two computers run F@H 24-7... And still I end up with a manageable bill. For me, at least. "

Typical of the hyperindividuality 100% self absorbed attitude that has created the problem and enabled a president to win 2 elections on nothing but fear. I mean really, you have so much to be proud of. Don't forget to fumigate your home every 5 years for bugs and all the tornadoes. What intelligent person would live with those conditions? And Miami leads in what? Murder and road rage?


"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins











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