There are a lot of reasons to think that flat solar panels would be the right way to go. The best way to capture sunlight is by being perpendicular to the sun and it's usually cheaper to make things flat than round. But the folks at Solyndra have discovered that this traditional wisdom might be a bit faulty.
First, as to the second point, when dealing with thin-film CIGS solar panels, cylindrical is just as good as flat. But the first point, concerning harvesting the maximum amount of sunlight, gets a little confusing.
The cylindrical solar panels (think of fluorescent tube lights...except in reverse) can absorb energy from every direction, and when combined with a white roof (which are now the only legal, flat roofs in California) can capture up to 20% more light than traditional solar panels. The other gigantic advantage is that they don't have to move to track the sun. The panels are always presenting some of their face directly perpendicular to the sun.
By removing solar-tracking and orientation from the equation, these systems can simply be laid onto roofs. Tracking solar panels have to be able to resist the force of strong winds, these will just lay flat and out of the way reducing installation costs, which often comprise about half of the price of a solar project.
And with 30 billion square feet of flat roofs in America, this could be quite a market for cheap, clean electricity. Solyndra just announced, in fact, that they've got $1.2 B in contracts throughout Europe and America, and I can't imagine that going anywhere but up.
Full press release from Solyndra below
SOLYNDRA RESHAPES SOLAR PANELS FOR COMMERCIAL ROOFTOPS
Proprietary panels designed to provide higher electricity output per rooftop and significantly reduced installation costs
Company announces more than $1.2 billion in customer contracts
FREMONT, Calif., October 7, 2008 – Solyndra, Inc. today announced a new solar photovoltaic (PV) system for the commercial rooftop market. Solyndra’s PV system is designed to generate significantly more solar electricity on an annual basis from typical low-slope commercial rooftops with lower installation costs than conventional flat panel PV technologies. Commercial rooftops represent a vast, underutilized resource and huge opportunity for generating solar electricity. Since its founding in 2005, Solyndra has been developing technology and ramping manufacturing capacity to produce its proprietary CIGS-based thin film PV system. Solyndra is currently shipping its systems, comprised of panels and mounting hardware, to fulfill more than $1.2 billion of multi-year contracts with customers in Europe and the United States.
The New Shape of Solar
Solyndra’s panels employ cylindrical modules which capture sunlight across a 360-degree photovoltaic surface capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. This self-tracking design allows Solyndra's PV systems to capture significantly more sunlight than traditional flat-surfaced solar panels. Traditional PV systems require costly tilted mounting devices to improve the capture of direct light, offer poor collection of diffuse light and fail to collect reflected light from rooftops or other installation surfaces.
Additionally, conventional flat PV panels must be mounted at an angle and spaced apart for optimum energy production, resulting in sunlight being wasted by striking unutilized portions of the roof. Solyndra’s panels perform optimally when the panels are mounted horizontally and packed closely together, covering significantly more of the available roof area and producing more electricity per rooftop on an annual basis than a conventional panel installation.
To meet rooftop wind loading requirements, conventional flat solar panels must be anchored to commercial roofs with either ballast or rooftop penetrations, which are inherently problematic. Together with the need for tilting, the resulting complex mounting systems require significant investment in labor, materials and engineering resources. Conversely, because wind blows through Solyndra panels, no rooftop anchoring is required. Further, the low weight of the Solyndra system enables the installation of PV on a broader range of rooftops.
For typical conventional PV installations, a solar panel is only half the cost of a complete installation; the other half includes additional expenses such as installation, cables and inverters. The horizontal mounting and unique air-flow properties of Solyndra's solar panel design substantially simplify the installation process for Solyndra's PV systems. The ease of installation and simpler mounting hardware of Solyndra's system enables its customers to realize significant savings on installation costs.
“By eliminating the need for roof-penetrating mounts and wind ballasts, PV arrays with Solyndra panels can be installed with one-third the labor, in one-third of the time, at one-half the cost,” said Manfred Bachler, chief technical officer at Phoenix Solar AG, one of the largest solar power integrators in Europe and a Solyndra customer. “For commercial rooftops, PV module installation time can now be measured in days, not weeks. For flat commercial rooftops this is game-changing technology.”
According to Solyndra founder and CEO Chris Gronet, "Solyndra’s system uniquely optimizes PV performance on commercial rooftops by converting more of the sunlight that strikes the total rooftop area into electricity while also providing for a lower installation cost and lower cost of electricity.”
Solyndra designs and manufactures photovoltaic systems, comprised of panels and mounting hardware, for the commercial rooftop market. Solyndra employs high volume manufacturing based on proven technologies and processes to meet the needs of the global solar market. Using proprietary cylindrical modules and thin-film technology, Solyndra systems are designed to provide the lowest installed cost per system and the highest solar electrical energy output for typical low slope commercial rooftops. Headquartered in Fremont, California, Solyndra operates a state-of-the-art 300,000-square foot, fully-automated manufacturing complex. Learn more at www.solyndra.com.
written by Total Solar Energy, November 06, 2008
written by Vacuum solar panel question, July 11, 2009
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