Silicon Valley start-up company SUNRGI, says it has developed a “concentrated photovoltaic” system that uses lenses to magnify sunlight 2000 times, reducing the size of solar arrays and producing more energy in a smaller space.
Other concentrated photovoltaic makers magnify sunlight about 500 times. SUNRGI says it can multiply that by four because it has a system to instantly cool its germanium-based semiconductor from 3,300 degrees to 20 degrees above ambient temperature. High temperatures can melt a solar cell.
The year-old company hopes to use the technology to produce solar electricity for US7 cents per kilowatt hour, including installation, which is roughly on parity with current coal-fired power prices. Solar power production now costs between US20 cents and US30 cents per kilowatt hour.
SUNRGI – founded by veterans of the aerospace and solar industries – will initially market the more compact system to commercial customers and utilities, and plans to target homes within the next three years.
Experts are calling SUNRGI’s plans “highly ambitious,” because it is unusual for new technology to go from conception to sale within two years. But with the high-growth rate and innovation of solar semiconductor manufacturing, these products can be fast-tracked to market.
New highly efficient semiconductors convert 37% of sunlight captured by a solar cell to electricity, more than double the industry average. The unit’s compact size allows it to be made at electronics or PC factories, avoiding the need to build new plants.