Published on March 14th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan2
Solar 3D Looks to Integrate 3-D Solar Cells into Roof Tiles
Solar3D announced this week that “it will conduct a study of the economics and benefits of integrated Solar3D cells directly into roof tiles.” Solar 3D is a three-dimensional solar cell technology company we’ve written about a few times here on CleanTechnica. It’s been working on preparing “super-efficient” 3-D solar cells for market and, in an analytical test, achieved a new silicon solar cell efficiency record earlier this year. (Note that it isn’t connected to MIT’s 3D solar panel project.) Now, Solar 3D thinks it’s found another niche to focus on — solar roofing tiles.
“We believe that over the next decade, rooftop PV applications—whether applied or embedded—will be among fastest growing of all solar market segments,” said Jim Nelson, President and CEO of Solar3D. “The superior efficiency of our 3-dimensional solar cell is ideal for the space-constrained nature of a roof top. Additionally, because the roof tile is placed in a fixed orientation, the angle of the light being absorbed is constantly changing—which greatly diminishes the efficiency of sunlight conversion by the conventional solar cells. The Solar3D cell’s wide angle collection feature is unique in its ability to dramatically reduce the loss of efficiency resulting from the changing angle of the sunlight.”
Note that Dow has been working on solar shingles (essentially the same thing) for years, and Solarcentury, in Europe, is mass marketing solar tiles. But Solar 3D may very well have an advantage with its special technology.
Solar3D’s 3-D Solar Cell Advantages
“In theory, the super-efficient solar cell will allow space limited rooftops to provide more power. Also, the wide-angle collection design of the new solar cell appears to be well suited for installations with a fixed orientation, because of the ever-changing relative position of the sun,” a news release this week stated.
Solar 3D’s Nelson added: “The need for wide angle collection of light should be apparent to any person or organization that intends to install a solar power system. BIPV applications are a good example of such compelling products. By increasing the power output per tile using Solar3D cells, we can help companies like Redwood Renewables offer unique PV-embedded roof tiles to the housing and construction industry. Any application where direct tracking of the sun is difficult, whether it is portable or fixed, will have increased power using our solar cells.”
Tom Faust, President of Redwood Renewables, commented: “One of the biggest challenges in PV integrated roof tiles is low power output from conventional cells. Buildings using high efficiency PV roof tiles will not only generate electricity for immediate use, but may even help pay the mortgage after a short payback period.” We’ll see.
Solar 3D “intends to collaborate with Redwood Renewables, a solar roofing company, on this study to provide a first look at how the Solar3D silicon-based technology will perform in Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) applications.”
My thoughts: I know some are very critical of solar shingles/tiles. But I think there will very well be a market for them, even if they don’t take over or dominate the home solar market — some people with money will prefer them aesthetically. Additionally, if companies like 3D solar can really offer a product that is competitive with traditional solar panel companies by partnering with roofing companies, they may do even better. I’m not sure yet how Solar3D’s costs will compare with its product’s projected high-efficiency. But, at this point, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out as a contender in this market.
Source: Solar 3D