Cheap Solar: It’s Closer than You Think


Skyline Solar hopes to achieve grid parity within the next 18 months. According to research by Clean Edge, solar power and conventional electricity sources will reach a “crossover” point by 2015. In other words, electricity from the sun will be cheaper than electricity from fossil fuels.
Today’s peak solar price of 15-32 cents/kWh is expected to decline to 8-12 cents/kWh by the year 2015.* (The current national average is 9.8 cents/kWh. Check your state here.) Achieving this “grid parity” – a price at which renewable and conventional sources are comparable – has been a primary goal of solar since its inception.

One company, Skyline Solar, doesn’t want to wait until 2015. Management hopes to achieve grid parity within the next 18 months with its patented High Gain Solar (HGS) system.
The HGS system combines multiple proven solar technologies into one unit. Tracking hardware rotates to follow the sun, a reflective rack focuses a large area of light onto a small solar array, and high gain solar panels convert sunlight to electricity using proven silicon-based PV cells. (It slices! It dices! It makes julienne fries!)
Imagine using a magnifying glass to concentrate the sun’s rays on one point to start a fire. That’s exactly how the HGS works to boost its efficiency. According to Tim Keating, Skyline’s VP of Marketing, the HGS system “delivers ten times more energy per gram of silicon” than traditional flat panel solar systems. As a result, the entire system can produce more watts for a lower price.
Mr. Keating also explains some of the other environmental benefits of the HGS. “It can squeeze 1,000 MW of electricity out of 100 MW worth of conventional solar panels, 98% of its components are recyclable, and it is built using a modular design.” That final point is especially noteworthy – as solar panels become more efficient in the future, the panels alone can be upgraded on the HGS without replacing the entire system.
Skyline also appears poised to create jobs for those displaced by the recession. Mr. Keating noted that HGS systems resemble car bodies and utilize a similar manufacturing process – therefore, displaced auto workers and defunct auto manufacturing sites could be used to mass-produce Skyline’s HGS systems.
This option for retooling existing facilities has caught the attention of the DOE which just provided $3 million in development funding so Skyline could increase its manufacturing output as part of the Solar America initiative. And, even as the economy started going sour last fall, Skyline Solar was able to close a $24.6 million Series A Venture round.
Now, Skyline is preparing to increase its manufacturing capabilities and compete in the marketplace. According to the company’s website, “Skyline’s HGS architecture is ideally suited for systems ranging from 50-100 kilowatts up through many megawatts. There’s no fundamental limit on how large the plants can be.”
Interested in purchasing a HGS system for your home or company? You won’t have to wait long. The HGS system has already been subjected to a year of real-world testing at the company’s Mountain View headquarters, and its 27-kilowatt pilot plant at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has also been a huge success.
Skyline plans to release further financing information – including HGS purchase prices and costs/kWh – later this year.

Matthew Holtry is a full-time Consultant for PRIZIM Inc. and a seasonal Journalist for Triple Pundit. His previous experience includes greenhouse gas & energy consulting, eco-business journalism, and various IT roles. He recently received his MBA from Penn State University, where he also served as the President of Penn State Net Impact. He was a former AmeriCorps Team Leader with Outward Bound, has driven cross-country twice, visited 19 countries, and now resides in Washington, DC.

6 responses

  1. What does this to to the lifespan of those panels? All extra hot ant-burning magnifying glass style? If they have that worked out, it sounds like a good product!

  2. Given how the technology is dependent on magnification, is its functionality dependent on direct sunlight? If so, this technology will only really work in areas with high levels of direct insolation and little-to-no clouds.

  3. Thank you Colin.

    The HGS system is designed with heat syncs to dissipate extra heat. The panels are purposely located on the edges of the system to facilitate extra airflow for cooling, and the lifespan of the panels is not compromised. (This was actually an architecture weakness of other HGS systems which put the panels in the middle of the system… Those DID burn up..)

    Here is a great link of the architecture:

  4. On the heat build up issue — perhaps they could utilize a prism to refract the concentrated light, thereby optimizing the process by utilizing PV cells at their most optimal wavelengths and throwing the rest into a traditional liquid sodium heater used spin a turbine? Just a thought.

  5. @cmg311 – This funding is actually part of the Solar America Initiative started by the Bush Administration. You can see more information at the attached URL.

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