Solar Energy Company Offers Radical, Tubular Solar Panels

By Eliza Strickland | October 8, 2008 10:03 am

solyndra solar panelsA previously secretive solar energy start-up has revealed the details of its cutting edge technology, and has declared itself as a major player in the new solar industry. The company, Solyndra, says it has orders for $1.2 billion worth of its solar panels over the next five years. It has raised more than $600 million and already has 500 employees. And it plans to construct a second, larger plant in [California] next year [San Jose Mercury News].

Solyndra makes solar photovoltaic systems, but its panels aren’t exactly the industry standard; where almost all others on the market look like a flat sheet of dark material, Solyndra’s panels resemble a row of long fluorescent light tubes, each an inch wide and an inch apart [VentureBeat]. The company says that by coating the tubes with thin-film voltaic cells, it has made more efficient solar energy collectors. “With a cylinder, we are collecting light from all angles, even collecting diffuse light,” says CEO Chris Gronet [Scientific American].

The company wants to see its solar panels installed on rooftops across the land, and says that its system will be cheaper to install than traditional solar panels. Because Solyndra’s tube panels are lighter and allow wind to pass through them easily, there is less construction needed in terms of rooftop anchoring or shoring up a roof for significant weight-bearing [CNET]. They also don’t have to swivel to face the sun, as some traditional panels do.

These features make the technology a perfect fit for big-box stores and office buildings, says Gronet: “There’s over 30 billion square feet of large, flat commercial rooftop space (in the United States). If we covered that with our solar panels, that would generate 150 gigawatts, enough electricity to generate power for 15 percent of U.S. homes” [San Jose Mercury News].

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Image: Solyndra

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • Mark

    If there are roughly 120 million US households and the average home uses +/- 11,000 kWh/year, a rate of about 1.25 kWh, wouldn’t 150 gigawatts power every home? …150 gigawatts (150,000,000 kWh) / 120,000,000 homes = 1.25 kWh/home… The other thing I didn’t understand is that 150 gigawatts from 30 billion square feet is 5 watts/square foot, isn’t it? Don’t conventional (flat) PV systems effectively put out 10-15 watts/square foot? Am I way off base here? I’m no expert…

  • nick

    I have been playing with a similar idea in my head, that of using small, pyramidally shaped arrays of solar collectors to trap diffuse light wells, much the way these rounded ones do. I have no idea, however, how to calculate whether or not a pyramidal shape able to capture the scatter from north/south as well as east/west would have any increase in collection efficiency. Ideally, light hitting one face directly would reflect onto the back of another pyramid, allowing the ‘dark’ side to collect energy as well, however, again, I don’t know how to calculate how useful this may be.

  • Ray

    I would like to ask you were I can get some tubes so experments at Itt-Tech in Boise Idaho. We are trying to make a perpetual light idea and we think your tubes will work

  • David

    I am a home owner In St. Petersburg, FL.. I would like to Know when will we see these units for home use? And if you need a home to try them out on my home is ready.

    Thank you.

  • Eliza Strickland

    Hi, David — the company that makes these systems is currently making only large installations suitable for the roofs of big box stores or office buildings. But you can keep an eye on the company website to watch for further developments:

  • Anthony J Gioco

    Just read about your product in the New Haven Register, found your web site, I’m impressed with the product. Do you need a sales person in Connecticut ?

    Thank You

    Anthony J Gioco
    135 Arundel Ave
    West Hartford CT 06107

  • solar panels

    I was wondering how does the tubular solar panels compare to thin films.Nano solar claimed that they can make thin films for less than us$1/watt.

  • geotermica

    Interesante post, estoy interesado en todo lo referente a energia solar y renovables, saludos, Aymara.

  • David Anders

    It is difficult to squint through the murky finances of Solyndra, and the scandal that surrounds the company. Solyndra was also partly done in by the unfair subsidies the Chinese government has given their solar champions. But you cannot discount Solyndra’s technology, here hopes someone continues down Solyndra’s road of innovation.


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