Magnifying Solar Panels’ Energy As Cheap as Coal, Start-up Claims
By Ryan Singel
By Ryan Singel
If you’ve ever set a leaf aflame with a magnifying glass, you’ll understand the basics of the photovoltaic cells that may finally make renewable energy affordable enough for everyone.
"The world runs on cheap energy," said Paul Sidio of Sunrgi. "We want to be the Wal-Mart of solar power."
Sunrgi says it developed a way to make solar energy as cheap as coal using panels that focus the sun onto photovoltaic cells equipped with innovative cooling systems.
The company claims its magnifying glasses intensify the sun’s rays 2000 times onto photovoltaic cells, which increases the heat to 3300 degrees Fahrenheit. While such heat will fry silicon in no time, the company says its electronics actually stay just about six degrees above ambient temperature thanks to special heat convection and generous spacing of the electronics.
Topping off the design, the units track the sun’s trajectory to maximize energy collection throughout the day.
"We generate six or seven times greater power than flat panel, non-tracking solar panels," Sidio said.
Sunrgi is showing off a prototype of the cell at the Wired NextFest pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park, where the free future tech expo is open to the public through October 12.
In keeping with their desire to make solar energy as cheap as possible, the company designed its electronics so that they can be built like a computer’s motherboard – meaning its innards can be built on any PC assembly line in the world.
That leads to a projected cost of 5 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour over a twenty-year period in the American southwest.
That’s cheaper than power created by almost all traditional energy sources.
Solar energy has always been long on hope but short on economic competitiveness. But if Sunrgi can make good on those promises and prices once its production design is finished and UL approval is won, pulling electricity out of the sun’s rays could become more than a well-meaning indulgence.
For those of you excited about covering your roof with Sunrgi’s technology, you may have to wait a while.
The company says it plans to first sell to utilities and large companies.
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