A Santa Barbara solar power company is breaking the mold on conventional solar power technology, maximizing conversion of sunlight into electricity with its new spin on the traditional design of solar panels. Solar 3D, Inc. says that this next generation of solar cell technology will pave the way to a more solar future by lowering the cost per watt.
The company claims that the cell is able to capture more light during the morning and evening hours, as well as during the darker winter months, through the use of a wide-angle surface. In addition, the three-dimensional, silicon solar cell traps sunlight within it. All of this adds up to 200 percent of the power output of traditional solar power cells.
Most of the expense of using power from the sun is in the installation of the cells and their manufacture. Since this new 3-D technology has a higher output, it will make the investment more cost-efficient. In fact, Jim Nelson, president and CEO of Solar 3D, said he believes this new technology will revolutionize the solar power field because of its efficiency.
“We recognized the negatives of traditional solar panels and deconstruct the problems, the biggest being that 30 percent of the light is being reflected back into space,” said Nelson. “Our cell absorbs the light so that it bounces around the inside of the 3-D cell before being turned into electricity, making it much more efficient and economically viable.”
Conventional solar cell efficiency varies greatly based on environmental factors including the amount of sunlight on any given day and is usually most efficient when the sun is shining directly overhead. However, since the integrated wide-angle light collection that is on the 3-D solar cells captures a broader spectrum of light, it can capture a greater amount of energy, even when the season or climate is not so sunny, Nelson explained. Multiple photon-absorbing surfaces light energy directly into electricity by a process known as the photovoltaic effect.
Although the 3-D model is still in its prototype stages, the company does plan to have its product commercially ready by 2013. The panels will look almost identical to traditional panels and will cost about the same amount for installation and manufacture.