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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: the rubbiatron, anyone
By Ringold on 5/14/2007 5:34:17 PM , Rating: 3
The health risks are those associated with the loss of income as environmental extremists force economicly unsound energy policies on an economy heavily dependentent on abundant, cheap energy to do the things that we all want it to do and benefit from. Loss of income, less money for quality foods and medicines and extraneous things like gym memberships, lower health. There, I tied current-generation solar panels to health risks. :P

As for nuclear power, I don't think anybody would claim the French are experts at or even relatively good at anything but making, and drinking, wine, but yet their track record for nuclear safety is impressive, and so is ours. Nothing can be done entirely safely, and nothing is a free lunch in terms of pollution or resources (solar panels consume huge amounts of very valuable metals and whatnot). People will die falling off roofs just the way, one day, a handful of people may end up getting killed in a release of radioactive waste. Does the manner of death really matter? I tend to think not; both are extremely safe, and nuclear powers record can't be intelligently disputed. The decision left to be made is an economic one and as it stands today nuclear power is ready to go and solar panels, unfortunately, are just putting their shoes on.

To be honest, the limited elements of the left-wing that are so fully against nuclear power are only betraying their true intent; the end of cheap energy. Whether or not that's your personal vandetta or not, someone who's indoctrinated you at some point along the line DOES have that agenda. Plenty of countries have for decades safely provided lots of electricity (and water) from nuclear power; the argument against them just doesn't exist until large, unlikely yet still potential risks are thrown in to the discussion in total disregard for their record to date.

RE: the rubbiatron, anyone
By phusg on 5/14/2007 6:03:25 PM , Rating: 2
There, I tied current-generation solar panels to health risks. :P

Well done, and it wasn't at all far-fetched :P
Plenty of countries have for decades safely provided lots of electricity (and water) from nuclear power

Decades you say? Oh well, carry on making waste that stays radioactive for thousands of years then, obviously nothing will ever go wrong if it hasn't done so the last few decades.

And for the record, yes I am for an end to cheap energy for the better off countries of the world there where it's generated unsustainably. It's the only way to ween ourselves off it the pollution it generates. The only reason it's so cheap is because the huge environmental costs associated with it's generation are not calculated in and are being passed on to future generations.

I'm all for economic decisions, but only when the hidden costs are also taken into account.

RE: the rubbiatron, anyone
By Ringold on 5/14/2007 7:01:31 PM , Rating: 5
If you were for wise economic decisions you wouldn't still be trying to make a problem out of something that never has been one (the waste) and trying to hand-pick technology instead of allowing the free capitalist market to do so, no; you'd be advocating a carbon tax for every ton of CO2 released, indexed to take in to account whatever price would be necessary to reduce consumption over that given fiscal year to a level that's on it's way to what scientists say would be necessary to avoid whatever problem it is we agree as an electorate is worth taxing ourselves over, and also taking in to account the extra income consumers would have because the money raised from the tax on carbon would be off-set by tax cuts elsewhere (because you certainly wouldn't be a big-government liberal, would you?)

But since I've never personally heard a environmentalist utter that suggestion, and many environmentalists have likely taken an economics course and know that the above would maximize efficiency, the real conclusion is that they're not even interested in efficiency. Just returning man to some lower level of existance because heaven forbid we're the masters of our own damned planet.

As has been pointed out many times before, waste is often stored on site for long periods of times, and has never yet been a problem -- despite several generations now of humans producing it. There are already several technically sound ideas of how to permanently store the stuff, they're all just ham-strung by environmentalists that simply dont want to see any of it work for fear of nuclear power providing cheap power. NASA can't even launch a probe with some of it without hippies waving their signs!

Look, we started exceeding what is natural for our consumption when we started learning how to make fire artificially. That consumption has allowed the developed world, for which you likely enjoy the benefits of living yet have such ire, to live very nicely, and hundreds of millions of people in Asia are rapidly moving in to that same middle class as capitalism blesses them after decades of stifling modern liberal economic policy (or what used to be conservative). If your point is that cheap power is bad because of pollution, there's a solution, and if it's bad because of the lifestyle it allows us to live, then, well, I dont see how thats a logically defensible position because you obviously must be amish.. yet.. you're on a computer... Why aren't you making cheese?

RE: the rubbiatron, anyone
By phusg on 5/16/2007 3:45:11 AM , Rating: 2
... no; you'd be advocating a carbon tax for every ton of CO2 released ... But since I've never personally heard a environmentalist utter that suggestion

In your rush to disagree with anyone you brand as a extremist environmentalist you seem to have missed that this is something I actually welcome.
Just returning man to some lower level of existance ...

Again not something I've said. I also don't see how generating our electricity as cleanly as possible (without generating nuclear waste) and paying for the full cost of associated pollution is a 'lower level of existance'.
... we're the masters of our own damned planet.

Wow, big assumption there. Since when did this planet belong to humans? Last I checked we weren't the only species inhabiting it.
because you obviously must be amish.. yet.. you're on a computer... Why aren't you making cheese?

Apart from the distinct possibility my ancestors made cheese (I'm Dutch) I don't come anywhere near being Amish. As you point out I obviously use computers, which for your information are powered by electricity generated by wind turbines here in Holland.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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