Solaria disclosed details about their low concentration solar technology during their presentation at Piper Jaffray’s (Piper Jaffray & Co., NYSE:PJC) Second Annual Opportunities in Alternative Energy Symposium (see Solaria presenting at Alternative Energy Symposium).
Thus far, this CNET News.com article, Solaria shines light on high-powered solar panel by Martin LaMonica, is the lone mainstream media report with additional business and trade publications destined to follow. However, on the Solaria core technology, this article disappoints:
Solaria does its concentration using plastic-based optics. A flat plastic casing made out of a proprietary polymer houses the solar cells while amplifying the light.
If you read my post, Solaria Keeps Solar Technology Secret, it seemed clear the solution was polymer based.
Viewed from the side, the solar cells are held atop small, elevated grooves molded into the plastic.
This vague statement raises more questions:
Are the grooves straight, circular, or another pattern?
Does the back or front of the solar cells sit on the elevated grooves?
Solaria, too, originally played with another design, trying to concentrate light as it hit the finished module, rather than within the solar cells.
I don’t think the current solution is concentrating light within the solar cells per se. So the solar cells are encapsulated in a proprietary polymer that is in direct contact with the solar cell minimizing the critical angle of total internal reflection versus an air gap between the flat optics and the solar cells.
The article does not describe the solar cells used in the Solaria solution, but it would appear these are standard size silicon solar cells.
Solaria’s CEO, Suvi Sharma, said the initial product will double the sunlight (two suns) hitting the solar cells, while a 2008 product will triple the sunlight concentration (three suns) on the solar cells. On the cost front, although Mr. Sharma claimed Solaria based modules would use 50 to 60 percent less silicon solar cells than traditional solar modules, Solaria based modules will only have a 15 to 17 percent cost advantage in 2008 until manufacturing volumes ramp.
I requested equal access to the information Solaria presented at the Symposium, but Solaria denied my request.