Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Solar Spheres

The Sphelar, which is the brainchild of Kyoto-based Kyosemi, is a perfectly round solar cell that can be made as small as 1mm in diameter. In serial or parallel, hundreds or thousands of the devices can be used to form a solar panel of any shape.

While it may not seem like a major difference, the practical effect of making a non-flat solar panel is that it doesn’t have to precisely face the sun to capture energy. In fact, Sphelar cells can generate electricity from both direct and indirect sunshine; effectively soaking up available light whatever direction it comes from.

3 comments:

thepaintman said...

thats interesting

mr. intense said...

Also:

"Construction methods are also efficient - less silicon is needed to make a Sphelar than a conventional solar cell as the spheres are crystallized out of molten silicon by gravity during freefall from 14m. Standard cell manufacturing results in half as much silicon being wasted as is actually used.

"Perhaps the most flexible aspect of the new cells is their ability to be molded into any shape needed and placed in any location. Possibilities include solar panels in awkward places or even windows that generate electricity through Sphelar cells embedded in the glass."
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Well, great! This seems like a genius idea--more efficient to manufacture, and more efficient and productive in terms of power generated as compared to flat-panel solar cells.

However, my question is how much will one of these solar power generating flexi-panels COST? I checked thru the links, and could find no estimated consumer pricing.

In other words, if, for _equal_ energy production (per unit cost) , the cost of _purchase_ for flat solar cell panel is considerably cheaper (including installation and reliability over time amortization factors), than the overall costs of the mini/micro spherical silicon-based flexi-panel by even a factor of 1 or 2, then this new invention will NOT be a cost-effective replacement and will become a niche product with only wealthy individuals, corporations, and/or government applications.

Uh, that wasn't too clear was it? Let me put it this way--if 4 standard solar panel arrays can be purchased for the same cost as one Sphelar unit, even if the Sphelar can produce twice the energy output, economically speaking most will still go with the flat panel, as it would produce twice the energy at the same cost, even if it takes up more space. Depending on rooftop space available, perhaps a _mix_ of flat and some Sphelars would be most efficient and/or cost efficient.

Of course, as the manufacturer scales up, and demand increases, the cost per unit of this product might begin to drop low enough to begin replacing flat-panel solar cells, but not before.

There could also be some breakthroughs in the power efficiency of flat panels, aided by computer driven actuators to track the sun automatically.

But I still want to know how much a Sphelar would cost vs. its' power output compared to a traditional flat panel solar cell.

From the intricate appearance of the Sphelar unit, I suspect the manufacturing and end-consumer cost will be initially quite high. I have sent the manufacturer, Kyosemi in Japan, an email inquiring about the comparative costs vs. comparative energy outputs between the two technologies, flat vs. round.

I'll let you know here if I get a reply what the comparative costs vs. energy output is. That's the crucial factor in this product becoming truly viable in the market, rather than being a niche product for expensive, special, and/or space-available applications.

Heres the link to the manufacturer:

http://tinyurl.com/34uybo

Dustin said...

That's actually kind of brilliant. Sad thing is, I've worked with alternative energy thinkers and doers on and off for years, and I'm not sure I've ever actually heard anyone put that idea forward. Usually the "next big thing" is the solar roof tile or solar material that actually takes the place of the roof. That looks like one to keep an eye on.