Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Solar. Now U Doin It Right.

First, a random thought about "poo humour." Why?  hehehehe when someone has an article like this one, why mess with the words "poo power" when they could just come right out and say "shitricity, fo shiz!"  Much better "ring" to it.  (oops, no pun intended.  yeah.)

UPDATE: Awwww crap!  Just too many articles on this topic for me to 'void it, must be a movement... 

UPDATE to the UPDATE: I've broken this out to a new post as today, the crap articles have flowed freely...  I'm flushed from laughing... 

Thoughts on suntricity (hehehe wish I could copyright this but someone else uses it as a business name already) as I read articles.  A certain company has been making the rounds with their tubular cells but they've kind of missed the boat on one or two things they could do to improve their product, in my book.

  • One, it's glass tubes.   At least flat panels have progressed to the point where they are warranted against 1" (2.4cm) hailstones for breakage, these tubes don't inspire me with the same confidence. Sorry...
  • Two, they do say it's difficult to manufacture their CIGS technology , especially in a tubular format.   See my suggestions further down.
  • Three.  Cylindrical format.  Ah-uh.  Sorry folks at Solyndra, there are two things I think of immediately.  First, you say there's some "reflection" off the underlying rooftop but unless you space the tubes well apart, there should be no such thing.  And if you do space the tubes apart to allow light through, then you're wasting surface area.  Secondly, the reflected energy is much less than the direct energy so it's not going to account for a significant increase in energy production.  
  • Four.  Claimed low wind loading allows the panels to just be sat on roofs without needing tricky mountings.  Sorry.  I totally disagree, there are any number of wind strengths between calm and cyclone that can lift surprisingly heavy objects off your roof.  I totally wouldn't just rely on "low wind loading" and friction to hold my investment of suntricity to the roof.  Low wind loading also has to be achieved by leaving bigger spaces between tubes, see "Three" above.
There are several things Solyndra can do though, to make their concept more of a market winner.  Here's my favourites:

  • If you can print cylinders with CIGS material, then you should also be able to print corrugated sheets.  Instantly, you still have the same "presents more area to the sun during the day" kind of curved upper surface, but now you also have the spaces between the "half-tubes" used to collect solar radiation.  
  • And cover the upper surface with some tough transparent coating, that will withstand a few hailstones.  
  • Lastly, get over the fact that you'll need to mount the panels, at least to some degree.  Look at it this way - corrugation lends a lot of strength to the material so complicated mountings are still not necessary, it's still cheap to put them up.  And you'd only have to produce the cells in 2" to 4" wide wiggly strips, then bond 36 of them to a corrugated backing sheet and you have an 18V panel.  No need for glass, either.  Some form of fibreglass or other rigid plastic would do the job nicely, and still be light, to boot.

Oh - look here!  Maybe you could talk to this company and use their film material to make your corrugated cells from...  Or take an idea from their process, which can be much more easily applied to a corrugated sheet than a cylinder.

Oh - and if you're making such cells, then for simplicity's sake produce the backing sheets in a size and spacing that will just lay on top of building material like ordinary corrugated iron.  Then, a corrugated iron roof can be easily clad with solar panels, and if you make your material conform to building code, the corrugated roofing can be made of just your solar panels, leading to a lighter roof that performs a dual function.

Oh - and one last thought.  Photovoltaic cells all have one other trait - they get less efficient the hotter they get.  Do yourself a favour, and make the backing sheet a structure with tubes built in, so that you can pass water through to cool the cells and provide hot water to the building the panels are attached to.  Two extra benefits for the price...

As always, if you work at one of these places and like my ideas, contact me, or make a donation using my Paypal link, or both.

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