In the lab of seven-year-old startup Solexel, aloof south of San Francisco, advisers accept been active re-inventing solar panels fabricated with silicon, the actual that already dominates the solar market. The startup is a attenuate brand these days, and amid a abbreviating accumulation of adventure capital-backed solar abstracts startups.
Many of these types of startups fell on adamantine times years aback as a excess of bargain solar panels hit the market. Solexel has aloft about $200 actor in absolute from investors including Kleiner Perkins, Technology Partners, and DAG Ventures.
But Solexel’s architecture is atypical and it’s developing panels fabricated of ultra-thin silicon solar cells, commutual with diodes that can shut bottomward poor-performing ones to anticipate them from affecting the achievement of the adjoining cells. The aback of the beef are layered with abstracts that advance their backbone and the ability that sunlight is adapted into electricity.
We’ll accept to delay until aing year to see whether or not Solexel’s panels are accustomed able-bodied in the market. The aggregation is architecture a pilot assembly band in a architecture aing to its address in Milpitas, Calif. and affairs to use it to prove it can accumulation aftermath the panels and barrage its technology commercially in 2015, Mark Kerstens, acting CFO and arch sales & business administrator of Solexel, told us. He beneath to acknowledge the pilot’s assembly capacity.
Although abounding of Solexel’s startup competitors accept gone away, that doesn’t beggarly there’s beneath antagonism for Solexel. Solar accomplishment is ultimately about calibration — active bottomward costs by accretion achievement — and that requires a lot of basic to start. Huge solar players, such as Aboriginal Solar, Trina Solar and Yingli Green Energy, already accept gigawatts-worth of factories each. Smaller companies are abacus assembly anxiously to accommodated demand. Again you accept SolarCity, the better residential solar installer in the U.S., which plans to body its own branch in New York.
Solexel has adopted an bearding sum, through a leasing facility, to body the pilot line. Kerstens says the aggregation intends to body its aboriginal full-size branch in Malaysia that will accept hundreds of megawatts of anniversary assembly accommodation at atomic and up to 1 gigawatt.
A accepted silicon solar console is fabricated up of a alternation of silicon beef overlaid with a metal filigree on the sun-facing side, which carriage the electrons produced by the cells. There are usually layers of bright materials, including glass, that assure the advanced and aback of the solar cells. The beef usually run from 150 to 180 microns blubbery and are broken with wire-saws from a silicon batten that is created from a pot of aqueous silicon.
Solexel produces its own beef of almost 40 microns by application what’s alleged epitaxial lift-off, a action that grows a corpuscle band on a host actual beneath afore slicing off that corpuscle layer. This action is one of the means to aftermath ultra-thin beef and allows the architect to re-use the host actual (the substrate) repeatedly.
The action is not new, but it’s added frequently been acclimated for added and added big-ticket types of solar corpuscle materials, and not silicon. The challenges has been to abbreviate any cracks in the ultra attenuate cells. The action additionally can be appealing slow from alpha to finish.
But to action this issue, Solexel is authoritative some big changes to accepted silicon corpuscle designs. Instead of creating that metal filigree (aluminum) on the advanced of the cells, Solexel puts it on the back, an access that is generally associated with solar aggregation SunPower. This best frees up amplitude on the advanced of the corpuscle to blot added sunlight.
To anticipate breakage, Solexel adds a band of custom-designed adhesive to the beef to abutment them. Again it creates addition metal grid. So a simple diagram of the aback of the corpuscle would be: cell, metal grid, adhesive layer, metal grid, Kerstens explained. He beneath to call how the two metal grids are affiliated back their role is to carriage the electrons out of the panel.
Cells are affiliated in series, so a poor assuming corpuscle could affect the assembly of acceptable ones. This is accurate for how panels are about active calm as a system, and the way to anticipate one bad console from affecting added panels is to attach electronics to anniversary console to abstract the botheration panels. Shade, bits and adulterated accessory can all account ability assembly to drop.
Solexel brings that aforementioned abstraction to the corpuscle akin by adhering simple diodes to every cell. The diodes serve as on-off switches to shut off poor-performing cells. Some companies are alive on agnate designs including Jinko Solar and ET Solar, which, for example, are analogous electronics with a array of beef at a time.
Solexel affairs to add added intelligence to its additional bearing diodes that will not artlessly shut bottomward the botheration cells. Instead, they can abstract whatever bulk of electricity that the botheration beef can still administer to aftermath while still preventing them from affecting the acceptable cells.
Solexel hopes its thinner and lighter solar panels will allure barter that accept roofs with weight-bearing limitations, which is an affair with some bartering buildings. Its panels will be about six times lighter than accepted glass-covered solar panels.
The aggregation will additionally bazaar its panels as not defective racks (they would be affirmed to the roof), which again would abate the accessories and accession costs. But there is a barter off to that approach: the solar panels’ ability will suffer. The panels aftermath calefaction while converting sunlight to energy, and there won’t be amplitude beneath them to blow the heat. Solexel is accession abstracts on how the rackless accession will affect the ability production.
The startup aims to barrage its monocrystalline silicon solar panels with 20 percent boilerplate ability aing year. That ability would be college than the majority of the silicon solar panels on the bazaar today.
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