Clean Power

Published on July 7th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


V3Solar Update — Video Visualizes Dynamic Spin Technology

July 7th, 2013 by  

Back in January, we published a story on V3Solar that… well… generated a lot of discussion (i.e. skepticism). V3Solar is getting ready to release a to-scale prototype and it has created the video below to better explain some of the intricacies of the technology it has dreamt up and created. Check it out and feel free to chime in below if you still find the tech sketchy or if you now see it as a potential market product that could find some happy customers. (For a more thorough text summary of V3Solar’s technology, check out our January article.)


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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • mds

    Pretty show. Concentrating the sun onto more efficient PV AND keeping it cooler is not a new idea. It is called CPV. Regular PV is kicking CPV in the groin. Amonix has a good product and they continue to struggle. There are no success stories in CPV. Where are the numbers for the cost per installed watt? Three different designs and no product on the market? These are all signs of fraud or impending death for a startup company. I hope I’m wrong, but count me skeptical.

    • CPV requires expensive solution like triple junction cells or exotic cooling designs. V3Solar can us standard one sun mono with up to 150X concentration with cost effective rotation handling all of the cooling. The bottom line is the LCOE. When we lower that, we have something significant.

      • Eric H

        If you’re using standard mono, what is the “3 colors of light” nonsense about? Nice try.

        • Eric: There are three “bands” of light from the three concentrating lenses, not “three colors of light”. The first lens focuses on the facet at the top of the rotor, the outside two reflect off mirrors and onto the bottom sides of the rotor. The bands of light are 120 degrees offset from each other. The advantage is that though we only have three bands of light, all six facets of PV remain excitated because of the speed of the spin. The PV hits the next facet of light before the decay rate completes, actually before it reaches more than 65% of the decay. We know this is different than flat, static PV, and our internal testing shows the additional power output is significant. Our next step is to have these results documented by a certified testing lab.

          • Eric H

            Try this experiment.
            1. Take two identical hoses hooked to identical pressure and flow sources.
            2. Start filling buckets with them.
            3. On one of the hoses, turn the tap on and off. Do it as fast or as slow as you want.

            Which bucket fills up faster? The correct answer is the bucket corresponding to the constant flow hose will fill up faster.

          • Eric: Hopefully your own experiment will help you grasp this…

            1. Take one hose with a constant flow of 1 gallon per minute. Then take two hoses that fluctuate between a flow of 1 gallon per minute and .65 gallons per minute, but they are both ALWAYS flowing.
            2. Start filling the buckets.
            3. Which will fill up faster?

          • Eric H

            Nope. If it’s a 1:1 comparison with standard CPV then you would be comparing your 2 hoses that fluctuate with 2 hoses that don’t fluctuate. Non-fluctuating wins. It’s the integration over time that you’re missing.

          • That is the whole point, Eric. This is not standard CPV. If you are going to try and cram dynamic spin into a static, flat environment, then you would be right. Thanks for your interest and questions. This is all of the time on a Sunday I am willing to spend on this. When we get our results documented by a certified testing lab, I hope you will be open to think beyond flat.

          • Eric H

            Correct. Standard CPV would use one cell under each of those three lenses and would have constant output from each. Your design uses twice as many cells and gets a time-averaged output that is less than the constant output from the standard design. Twice the PV cost and less than 1x the power. I really want to see those lab results.

          • Eric…you are answering your own question. Standard CPV would have three facets of PV beneath the concentrated lenses producing a constant 100% of that power. We have 6 rotating facets and three bands of light — twice as much PV from the same three focal points of light!

            At any moment, three of those facets will be producing 100 of the power, just like your static 3 under CPV, BUT…we have an additional three facets of PV being excited at 65% of maximum WITH THE SAME LIGHT. This happens because the excitation rate of PV is faster than the decay rate.

            Beyond that, standard CPV with a 40X concentration would require a more expensive and exotic material (like a triple junction cell) instead of the one sun mono PV we can use because of spin. One sun mono costs about 60 cents/Wp, while triple junction cells cost upward of $400/Wp.

          • Eric H

            I have my doubts, but I will charitably concede that you have only 2x the number of cells and you might be getting 1.65x the amount of power. However, you can just cut stop it with the nonsense about the decay and excitation rates: less power in is less power out, period. There is no magical efficiency increase from flickering the light on and off. They cannot be delivering “100 of the power” [sic] at the same time as they are delivery 65% of the power. You might have half of them at 100% and the other half at 65% at various times, but the average is then 82.5% output per cell peak. If you simply stop the rotation at the optimum point and take half of the cells off, you would have half the cells running at 100% output. You could get rid of the spinning motor, the secret coupler, and the specialized interface electronics, cutting cost and getting more power.

            If you guys want to argue that you have a better means of managing heat, that’s one thing, but if you want to argue that your method of managing heat also yields additional power vs other methods of managing heat, you’re fooling yourselves.

          • Eric, I have every confidence that you are going to have an “AH HA” moment any second because you give the answer within your answer.

            Think of it this way… With a standard, static CPV system, let’s imagine you have three lenses concentrating 500 watts of light onto three facets of PV. If the PV is 20% efficient each facet will produce 100 watts of power (let’s ignore the cost savings of PV over triple junction cells for now…).

            So in the above example you would produce 300 watts of power at any moment of time. I hope we are on the same page up to this point…

            With Dynamic Spin, we have 6 facets of PV and USING THE SAME LIGHT, half of them are excited at 100% while under the light, and the other half remain at a MINIMUM of 65% excitation when they rapidly move out of the light before going back into the light. Using the same 20% efficiency, at any moment in time, you now you have the same 300 watts of power PLUS an additional 195 watts (from the additional 3 facets * 65 watts each) for a total of 495 watts vs 300 watts in this theoretical example.

            Please understand that this PV is under 40X concentration, so even though it may only be producing 65% of its maximum potential when it is not in the band of light, it is still producing many times more than it would if it was just under one sun concentration at 100% excitation.

            The reason the excitation rate and decay rate are important is because by timing the spin we can hit the power curve with the next band of light before it decays too far down (ie 65% of max).

            I have attached a graphic to help you visualize it. Just imagine the next band of light hitting the PV facet before the back side of the power curve reaches 65% of max…then it shoots back up to 100% under the concentrated light (notice how steep the attack rate is)…then it repeats over and over as the rotor spins.

            Some complain that we are adding complexity with the spin. It is less complicated than an electric fan. The advantage is that we use 95% less PV and the lenses cost 90% less than the PV, thus improving the economics and the LCOE.

            Eric, I am not the technology side of our team. I am sure you understand power electronics way better than I do. I understand the basics.

            Nature spins. From electrons, to the solar system, to hurricanes — spin is a constant. We apply that principle to solar power and the results we are seeing are inspiring.

            We realize that we will have skeptics until our results are certified (and probably well after that). I appreciate you keeping an open mind. Thanks for the dialogue. I hope what I shared was helpful.

          • Eric H

            Using your example, you have 3 static cells generating 300 W or you can spin 6 cells to generate 495 W. That’s twice the cost sunk in PV with less than 2x the output. Since, as you correctly point out, the lenses are much less expensive than the PV, you are much worse off than if you used half the number of static cells per cabinet and then added another cabinet. And we haven’t even taken the loss through the rotating connector into consideration, or the efficiency and cost of the nonstandard interface electronics required to connect to the grid (or whatever).

            Your presentations would be so much better if there was so much less, well, *spin* in them. For example, the first part of the video goes through some handwaving about how silicon surfaces are rough and therefore lose out on sunlight. First, this roughness is generally thought to be a good thing and people go to some trouble to create it in order to increase absorptivity through multiple path reflections. See this site (, for example. This is especially helpful if the device is tracking the sun. It is less helpful for off-axis sunlight. All concentrators, including yours, must track the sun (I guess you guys figured that out and abandoned the last design) because Fresnel lenses not pointing at the sun will not concentrate it. However, the spinning nature of your design diminishes this feature when they are off-axis, which of course is most of the time (roughly 83%, defining +/- 5 degrees as “on-axis”). Second, shading part of the crystalline structure with another part of it does not reduce the amount of sunlight striking the crystalline structure – this should be obvious. The projected area of an off-axis device would reduce output (again, a problem in your device but not in the static device);shadowing from gridlines is another story, but is not addressed in the video. So the multiple sunrise thing is complete and utter nonsense as a mechanism for increasing efficiency. Taking that out of your video would trim it by about 1/3 to 1/2. What we would be left with is some handwaving about thermal management, but nothing to indicate whether your thermal management is better than standard techniques, like passive heat sinks (like these: Extruded aluminum fins have very low maintenance costs, and can also be enhanced by the same passive convection as your spinners.

            The issue about decay is a red herring. Less power is less power, no matter how much pseudotechnicalese you want to dress it up in.

          • Eric, the cost of the additional PV is minor at 40X concentration, and producing 70% more power with all of the same infrastructure and just a bit more PV lowers the overall LCOE.

            The fact that the light hits the PV at multiple angles because of the rotation is significant. It is not “handwaving.” The significance has simply not become clear to you yet. Again, that for your interest.

          • Eric H

            If the additional PV is “minor”, then the cost of using the approach I suggested must be even less so. As the video states, the cost of the lenses is “90% less than the PV material.”

            If you guys really believe the flickering light is better, you could simply build non-spinning CPV modules and install light choppers. Choppers are like fans with precision blades. You would gain back the coupling loss you must have in the rotating system, and probably even improve the airflow and therefore the cooling.

            Your discussion of multiple angles continues to be handwaving. If you don’t understand terminology like “projected angle”, it would be more honest to stop trying to talk down to me about it.

          • Eric, I would never want to “talk down to you.” As I mentioned, I am not the technology side of our team, so if I use the wrong term or phrase, please forgive me. I am doing my best to explain a concept.

            Using a light chopper would block the light for that fraction of time so that would not be efficient and it would be just as “complicated” as the spin without the advantages. That is actually what one of our design houses tried and it provided none of the benefits of Dynamic Spin.

            The fact that we can hit the PV from the top and the bottom with the mirrors is a big advantage. The beauty of the spin is that the light is NEVER blocked — it just hits different parts and angles of the PV.

            I went through the economics above. Did you find some fault with my logic? Adding more PV and producing more power from the same light and infrastructure improves the LCOE — and that is the bottom line.

          • Ooops…I had a typo on my last reply and tried to delete it and repost, but it looks like it just changed my name to Guest. Here is a more complete answer…

            Eric, the cost of the additional PV is minor at 40X concentration, and producing 65% more power with all of the same infrastructure and just a bit more PV lowers the overall LCOE (plus higher power density has other economic advantages).

            Let me give you a specific example. Lets imagine we have one meter of lensing concentrating 1000 watts of light. With your static method using 20% efficient PV, you would produce 200 watts. With Dynamic Spin, using twice as much PV, we produce 330 watts.

            Using a flat panel under 1X concentration, one square meter of PV producing 200 watts would cost you $120 at $0.60/Wp. Under 40X concentration, the PV cost would be $3, or $120/40.

            Dynamic Spin uses twice as much PV, or $6, to produce an additional 120 watts (we will subtract 10 watts for what the motor uses to produce the spin). If the motor costs $10 and the power electronics cost $10, that would be 120 extra watts for $20 more cost, or about 17 cents/Wp. That is some solid economics.

            The real question is how do we compare to a flat panel. For a flat panel to produce 320 watts at 60 cents/Wp, it would cost $192, plus the cost of tracking. So can we produce the frame, the lenses, the motor, etc for less than $192 for a unit that is a meter square?

            Since lensing in quantity costs up to 90% less than the PV material, I hope you would agree that the above economics would not be difficult when producing at a commercial scale.

            Regarding tracking, any dual access tracker will have the lenses focused directly at the sun 100% of the time. It is the angle of the lenses, not the PV, that is significant, Eric.

            The fact that the light hits the PV at multiple angles because of the rotation is important because more PV is excitated during every rotation. It is not “handwaving.” Using the analogy of the buildings from the video, if the PV is always pointed directly at the sun, it is similar to only hitting the tops of the buildings. As you point out, there are advantages to PV having a rough surface. Dynamic Spin optimizes those advantages, which were not calculated into the economics above.

            Again, thanks for your interest, Eric.

          • “Regarding tracking, any dual access tracker will have the lenses focused directly at the sun 100% of the time”

            You apparently have zero experience with trackers.

            The cost of the tracker system is a function of the concentration ratio. That’s because as the concentration increases, the subtended angle of the optics decreases, and the required accuracy of the pointing goes up.

            If you want to point a traditional flat panel at the sun to minimize cosine losses, you can make a tracker that’s good to within maybe 10 degrees. The cosine of 10 degrees is basically 1. That means that things like wind and snow loads aren’t a big issue – the wind might blow you around a few degrees, but not more than that.

            Things are much different when you have concentration. Now if you go off by ten degrees, the light doesn’t fall on the cell, and you get *zero* output. In the system you diagram, the allowable angles are perhaps 1 degree or less. The tolerances are so fine that wind becomes an issue, and even the mechanical flexing of the mount can cause problems. Prices *skyrocket*.

            I was on a call with Emcore circa 2008 when they were pitching their 35% GaAs cell. It cost about $1 a watt – not bad in an era when traditional PV cost maybe $2.50. However, the tracker needed to accurately focus the required 500 suns was $7 a watt. They didn’t get a lot of investors.

            In the time since then, PV has fallen from $2.50 to $0.60. Trackers have fallen… not at all. And that’s why every other company that tried to do CPV also failed, from Boeing SpectraLab to Morgan Solar. Their cell price/performance was always better than pSi, and the trackers killed it, every time.

            You can invoke your magical spinny widget all you want, geometry is geometry, and you’re on the wrong side of it.

            And who am I to say this? If you ever drive around Ontario and see a tracker, there’s a 60% chance my day job was responsible for it. I have ample experience with thousands upon thousands of tracker systems.

            “Using the analogy of the buildings from the video, if the PV is always pointed directly at the sun, it is similar to only hitting the tops of the buildings.”

            Quantum efficiency of a typical PV cell is over 90%. That means that 90% of the photons that hit it turn into an exciton. You’re claiming that by spinning the cell, that increases by about 50%?

            That’s an interesting statement. *coff*

          • Bob_Wallace

            Disregarding this piece of silly vaporware (which most of us did long ago) –
            What if the concentrating lens and solar cell are in a rigid mount so that both move as tracking occurs? Wouldn’t this deal with wind issues?

            Why can’t flat panel tracking be more accurate than ‘within 10 degrees’? With well built two directional tracking and a well designed sensor it would seem tracking could be very accurate.

          • “What if the concentrating lens and solar cell are in a rigid mount so that both move as tracking occurs? Wouldn’t this deal with wind issues?”

            Have you ever tried to use a small telescope on a normal camera tripod? Try it some time. That telescope is pretty rigid, but it blows around in the wind.

            You can design your way out of this, of course, telescopes do it all the time. But they do it by adding massive amounts of money. These days a reasonable mount costs more than a telescope of the same basic money.

            In the case of trackers, you’ve seen them right? The huge flat plates on top of a pole? Have you seen them in the wind?

            “Why can’t flat panel tracking be more accurate than ‘within 10 degrees’?”

            Oh, it can, it just doesn’t *have* to be. Anything within a few degrees is fine, and many trackers only bother to move every 15 minutes or so to save power.

            But that doesn’t work with CPV. Since you’re focussing down onto a spot, you need to be *much* more accurate or the spot focusses somewhere off your cell.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A rigid cone with a lens at the wide end and the solar cell at the other. Lens/cell alignment would be fixed.

            A strong frame with multiple cones attached.

            A mechanical or hydraulic system to move the rack as it tracks.

            I have seen pole mounted trackers shake in the wind. I watch my rigid frame panels shake in the wind. I even saw one of my racks fly apart during a storm due to the failure to install a lock washer on one foot.
            Actually, I didn’t see it fly apart. I looked out to see a smooth expanse of snow where there should have been a panel-bump. It took a while to realize something was missing.

  • BtotheT

    Use some triple/quad junction and show a working prototype… I thought they had something with the cone spin and holographic lenses. If they had a working model there wouldn’t be 3 prototypes, as one would be ‘Best’ for residential and ‘Best’ for commercial. They were working with nectar design on prototypes and after a year they still haven’t narrowed down a build that seems as good as the original. They went off the deep end seeking over 30x concentration types and fell into a pit of concept design for 50x+ …. Get some 20%-45% Panels and make the cone/bar with holographic lenses at 15-40x concentration. Stop acting like a smoke and mirror show without answers to keep your grants/funding with bluffs. Feed your brains correctly, without caffeine, flouride, msg, or high frustuse corn syrup and put those imaginations that came up with the initial concept back to work.

    • piwifaquzehy

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      Of course this is just a hunch and I do not think that there are real
      arguments that could be pointed out that their method fallacious. It is
      just different thing to have good ideas than commercially viable

  • Too many moving parts. I opted for a fixed pole mount array instead of a tracker due to the moving parts. I can’t see this having a 25 year warranty or being as reliable as regular solar panels…

  • bussdriver78

    PV is getting cheaper and billions are being put into making it cheap and better. It is counter productive to put so much into saving PV when the costs of avoiding it already do and eventually will exceed the PV it saves. For home owners, it already questionable to invest in tracking systems vs just mounting some more static panels.

    • Russell

      Thats the default/reasonable position, however might they have a chance if someone invents a 40% efficient panel cheap enough for them to use, but still much too expensive for laying out flat. I don’t understand why they aren’t using the most efficient/more expensive panels atm, that would seem to make much more sense. They sure sound better at presentations than tech atm.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Pay attention to the fact that at any one time half of the collecting area is in the shade. It’s on the back side of the cone.

        Then attend to the fact that a large percentage of the half not in the shade is not pointed at the Sun, but at an angle to the Sun. Unless panels fairly closely face the Sun most of the light bounces off and is not turned into electricity.

        Want to get the most out of your panels, be they 5%, 15% or 40% efficient? Then mount them facing the Sun.

        • Bob…did you watch the video? You seem to be talking about the Spin Cell. There are no “cones” on this design, and as we show, all of the PV is excitated throughout the entire rotation.

          • Eric H

            I watched the video. The sunlight is concentrated from the sides. The top and bottom are not receiving concentrated light. Um, did *you* watch the video?

            CPV must track the sun. This is no different than other CPV except for the ridiculous spinning and “multiple sunrise” snake oil. Tell me – what is the mechanism for getting the current off the spinning device? Also, are these series connected or parallel?

          • Eric H

            Ooops, I watched it again. The sunlight does strike the top, but not the bottom. The illumination is even shown to drop and rise, so we’re back to the ridiculous excitation and decay claims. If it didn’t spin, and was optimized, the time averaged energy hitting any one cell would be greater that the time averaged energy hitting this, so you actually get less energy. Yes, yes, V3S will come back about their cooling method, but they have a problem: the sunlight delivers both light and heat energy. They cannot be claiming to get the one without the other, and they cannot be claiming to not get one without the other at the same time.

          • Eric, you need to watch it again. The sunlight reflects off the mirrors and it then hits the bottom of the rotor. This provides more PV excitated with the same light, hence more power. With all 6 facets of PV, none of them produce less than 65% of their maximum power at any one time. Yes, there is a power curve, but we always hit the next band of light before the decay rate reaches 35% below max. The facets are not connected in series or parallel. Think beyond flat.

          • Eric H

            If this is true, then how come the video shows the excitation falling and rising? It cannot always hit each facet and simultaneously not hit them sometimes.

            Not series or parallel? There is no other choice, except for not connected at all. Either you are running the cells in series (one circuit), or you are running in parallel (6 separate circuits), or some combination (2 per circuit in 3 circuits, 3 per circuit in 2 circuits, or some unbalanced combination).

          • Eric…there is another choice on how they can be connected. Series and parallel are not the only options… The power wave rises and falls, and the PV facet hits the next band of light before its excitation falls more than 35% from peak. This is not complicated. Think beyond flat.

          • Eric H

            No, there is no other option. Kirchoff’s voltage and current laws are not complicated, but they are laws and not suggestions. You might want to consult an electrical engineer. The electrons must move out of the cell and into a place where they can be used, i.e. a load. There are six cells on each spinning mechanism. The cells may each be a source in a separate circuit, or they may all feed one circuit, or some combination thereof, but they must be connected to the circuit(s) to be useful. My questions are very simple: is the connection series or parallel, and how does the energy get off the spinning part and into the load?

          • Eric. Each PV cell is discreetly connected. How we pull the power off is something we only discuss under NDA.

          • Eric H

            Then that is a parallel connection. That means you need some kind of specialized power conditioning system in order to feed a battery or inverter because the output will be some kind of DC with an AC component. Also, the energy must flow through some kind of coupling device, e.g. slip rings. “Standard” CPV can use any one of the industry standard power conditioners and will have neither the spinning motor power draw nor the coupling loss from the slip rings (or whatever magical but completely proven technology you will assert next). I’m not seeing any advantages to the spin thing.

          • Eric, you are obviously a bright guy and you know solar. By discreetly connecting each PV facet, we have more flexibility in how we maximize and aggregate the power as we take it off the unit.

            If we connected the PV cells in parallel, the energy could cancel, like a shadow on a PV panel, as some cells would be in the sun and some would not…so the cells that are producing 100% would be brought down to 65%. Not good.

            I know this is frustrating and naturally creates some skepticism, but there aspects to our technology that I simply cannot discuss online at this point. It is not magic. We simply applies well known power electronics in a novel way, and the only way we could do this is through Dynamic Spin.

      • Russell. You are correct. Because we use so little of it, we are able to use more expensive and higher cost PV.

      • Russell, you are correct. Because we use so little of it, we can use higher efficiency and more expensive PV. This is one of several advantages. As more PV breakthroughs happens, Dynamic Spin can be the first to capitalize on them.

  • Wayne Williamson

    I think their basic premise is flawed. Sliced silicon is pretty much flat. That being said, I hope they can succeed.

  • dynamo.joe

    Well they are still good at product design and I think not so good at science. I never worked on PV, but that is definitely not what mono-xtal Si looks like.

  • Jouni Valkonen

    I would bet that V3Solar company is bogus and will not never return invested capital.

    It is too easy to make convincing powerpoint presentations and 3D models.

    Of course this is just a hunch and I do not think that there are real arguments that could be pointed out that their method fallacious. It is just different thing to have good ideas than commercially viable product.

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