Smart Solar International develops cheaper sun-chasing solar panels
Unlike the heliotropic technology from MIT which uses difference in temperature to turn the photovoltaic panels in the right direction, a group of researchers from Japan developed moving mirrors that follow the sun throughout the day. The developers from Smart Solar International claim that devices can generate twice the electricity compared to other currently available models.
The device features a row of aluminum mirror bars that can slowly rotate as the sun moves across the sky and reflect its light back onto a central tube that is packed with high-performance, multi-layered solar cells. In a way, it is a miniature version of a concentrating solar power we wrote about in our article about solar power in general.
Although nuclear energy provides a lot of basepower around the world, and it is one of the most efficient energy generating methods at the moment, the demand for renewable energy growing all around the world. After events which happened in March this year, where earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant on the northeast coast of Japan, the Japanese government announced a major energy policy review that would promote solar and other alternative energies.
“We must send our product to the (disaster) regions first”, said Takashi Tomita, a former Sharp Corp. executive who heads the Smart Solar International, a Tokyo start-up with am additional office in California. “I want to ship this as early as possible to convenience stores and to other facilities where people congregate.”
The system requires far less silicon than the conventional larger flat photovoltaic cell panels, and it lowers the overall costs since silicon represents one of the more expensive components in solar panels. The tube has a system to prevent overheating, which reduces the efficiency of power generation. However, the excess heat can be used to heat water.
“You can get both electricity and heat from the same device”, said Tomita, who is also a professor at the University of Tokyo’s research center. He added that unlike Indonesia or Brunei which have sources of oil and gas, most of the countries in Southeast Asia need a source of energy as demand keeps growing. The company also aims for sales in India and the Middle East.
Next week, the people from Smart Solar International plan to exhibit a parabolic mirror version of the system at the Intersolar trade fair in Munich, Germany. They will start producing the system in August, and the sample sales are set to begin in October, with overseas sales targeting especially Asia and the Middle East set for 2014 or earlier if their venture proves successful.