V3Solar has released a new solar energy technology that the start-up claims could be cheaper than coal. In an exclusive on the Clean Technica blog last Thursday, the southern California-based start up claimed that its conical solar arrays can generate electricity at 8¢ a kilowatt hour: or less than two-thirds of the price of conventional electricity and even a cent cheaper than natural gas. And that figure is the levelized cost of energy, or LCOE, which accounts for the total cost of generating that energy including installation and maintenance.
Naturally, yet another claim about a clean energy disruptive technology will raise eyebrows–such as mine, as I seem to remember a couple years ago when my inbox was constantly flooded with press releases from algae biofuel companies stating they would have a game-changing breakthrough in six months. Those emails stopped coming at least two years ago. Then, of course, there has been the relative silence over the Bloom Box. But there is something about V3Solar that is creating buzz around the web, including at sites such as Grist. So what is in the secret sauce?
As is the case with most new technologies, much of the answer lies in V3Solar’s design. The flat design of conventional photovoltaic (PV) solar panels has an impact on their efficiency: 18 percent on average. If the amount of light hitting a panel increases 20-fold, theoretically, the electricity generated would be 20 times as much, but with one caveat: the heat generated (260ºF) would cause the PV panels to fail.
However, V3Solar’s cones, layered in what the company describes as “spin cells,” avoids that problem. The outer cones’ lensing captures that light at a rate of 20 times more intense, and it is then deflected to the smaller, inner panels within these cones. Furthermore, the conical layering of these cobalt blue cones captures light much more efficiently as the sun changes positions during the day. As the cones rotate via its CoolSpin technology, a “dynamic flash rate” accelerates electrons at a rapid rate that creates even more electricity. Think of these cones as analogous to Russian matryoshka dolls–inside each cone is one smaller, receiving concentrated light from the one hovering over it. To that end, the company claims that one of its spin cells produces as much electricity as five flat PV panels–another key game-changer considering the cost of land.
V3Solar commissioned solar expert Bill Rever to examine the company’s technology and write a review. Overall, Rever was positive about the potential–but as with any new emerging technology, his final conclusion is revealing:
Overall, V3Solar appears to have a concept that can carve out a solid place in the solar and overall electricity market and is pursuing a sound strategy in examining and understanding the details of the technology to provide the best possible initial design.
Whatever the outcome may be, there is no denying that the excitement and innovation surrounding V3Solar is exciting–and that there is even more to look forward to as more startups seek to break the yoke that fossil fuels have long had on our economy.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost). He will explore children’s health issues in India next month with the International Reporting Project.
[Image credit: V3Solar]