Concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) is not a new technology, but commercial utilization is. In the past, panels demonstrated high efficiency in the laboratory, but were not designed for manufacturability. Since SolFocus was founded in 2005, the company has taken a different approach to this technology.
“We have designed our product for manufacturability,” says Nancy Hartsoch, VP of Marketing for SolFocus. “Otherwise, we will end up with an expensive lab experiment.”
SolFocus recently announced raising over $77 million in Series C funding. This will help the company ramp up production to commercial scale production, something that they have had in mind from the beginning.
With a wealth of knowledge in manufacturing products with glass and aluminum, some of the best qualified people for designing SolFocus’ manufacturing automation systems are from the auto industry.
One major advantage of SolFocus’ technology is that the majority of the materials used are abundant. Unlike most photovoltaic technologies, SolFocus panels utilize germanium instead of silicon as a base material.
Silicon shortages have plagued the solar industry for years, hindered the productivity of manufactures and boosted the prices of solar panels. SolFocus’ 1100S however uses a mere 1/1,000th of the active solar cell material compared to traditional photovoltaic panels.
While most solar panels need 1 to 3 years to payback the energy used to produce the panel, SolFocus panels have an energy payback period of just over 6 months because no silicon is used.
CPV technology utilizes optics to focus and magnify sunlight on high-efficiency photovoltaic cells to produce electricity. The solar panels are mounted to a dual-axis tracker that follows the sun, thus ensuring the optimum angle for energy output. The result is one of the most efficient solar technologies available on the market today.
Photo Credit: SolFocus