SchwartzReport: Clever Inexpensive Solar Power

05 Energy

schwartz reportIf this pans, out it is good news and a big deal. Click through to see the images.

Solar power cheaper than coal: One company says it’s cracked the code

By David RobertsGrist, 25 January 2013

Over time I’ve grown more and more suspicious of stories about breakthrough technologies. I always think back to those heady days of EEStor, the guys who were going to make a battery that would revolutionize grid storage and electric cars alike. “EEStor CEO says game-changing energy storage device coming by 2010”! As you may have noticed, 2010 came and went and the game remains unchanged.

V3Solar Spin CellAll of which is to say, regarding the post to follow: caveat lector.  Still, this looks very, very cool.

CleanTechnica has an exclusive on a new solar technology that claims to be able to produce power with a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of 8¢/kWh. That is mind-boggling, “two-thirds the price of retail electricity and over 3 times cheaper than current solar technology.” If the claim proves to be true (and a lot can happen between prototype and mass manufacturing), it could revolutionize the solar industry.

The company is called V3Solar (formerly Solarphasec) and its product, the Spin Cell, ingeniously solves two big problems facing solar PV.  First, most solar panels are flat, which means they miss most of the sunlight most of the time. They only briefly face direct sunlight, unless expensive tracking systems are added. The Spin Cell is a cone.

The conical shape catches the sun over the course of its entire arc through the sky, along every axis. It’s built-in tracking.  The second problem: Solar panels produce much more energy if sunlight is concentrated by a lens before it hits the solar cell; however, concentrating the light also creates immense amounts of heat, which means that concentrating solar panels (CPV) require expensive, specialized, heat-resistant solar cell materials.  The Spin Cell concentrates sunlight on plain old (cheap) silicon PV, but keeps it cool by spinning it.  It’s just so damn clever.

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