Satellite solar panels promise grid parity power by next year


Solar concentrator company Sunrgi is planning to undercut conventional grid electricity prices within twelve months, using the same solar technology designed for satellites.

Sunrgi is planning a technology combining solar concentrators with space-class solar technology based on germanium - which, it claims, will produce energy costing five cents per kilowatt hour when amortised over 20 years. The company would not reveal the initial investment required in the equipment, which will be initially sold to utilities and large-scale industrial organisations.

The technology, which uses lenses to focus sunlight onto solar material, has an efficiency of 37.5 per cent - the company said - compared to around 15 per cent for conventional crystalline solar panels. With sunlight generating 1MW per square metre, that means it can harvest 375 watts, said Sunrgi CEO Paul Sidlo.

The company is using solar chips from Boeing Spectrolabs as the basis for the solar concentrator system. Spectrolabs has previously been credited with developing high-efficiency multi-junction solar material. The lenses used by the company will focus the power of 2,000 suns onto the solar material, said Sidlo, creating temperatures of 3,400 degrees.

He added that the technology rests on two key pieces of intellectual propery. Firstly, Sunrgi uses a proprietary cooling technology to stop the intense heat from the lenses vapourising the solar material.

"We have a nanomount on the back of the chip that has a tremendous ability to move thousands of thermal watts of energy away from the chip" - explained Sidlo. "It uses nanotechnology that we developed." Once removed from the chip by the nanotechnology, the heat eventually reaches an aluminium heat sink that can help to move it out of the solar array. In future versions, the company is considering harvesting the waste heat and converting it back into power.

The other proprietary technology is a tracking system that will minutely adjust the array's position to track the sun - increasing the energy that a unit will be able to harvest from the sun on a daily basis.

The company said it hopes to begin commercial production in within 12 to 15 months.

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