Skyline Solar Dawn

From PHOTON’s 1st PV Start-up Conference

[San Francisco, California USA]

Skyline Solar CEO Bob MacDonald presents at PHOTON’s 1st PV Start-up Conference.

Stealth mode Skyline Solar, Inc. presented Tuesday, December 2, 2008, on the first day of PHOTON‘s Searching for the »Second Solar« Conference Series USA. Mr. MacDonald provided a big picture view of Skyline Solar’s plans to accelerate the time to residential and wholesale grid parity by leveraging aluminum to replace silicon though concentration and tracking. Using the above photo, Skyline Solar teased attendees with tantalizing glimpses of their patented though confidential High Gain Silicon PV (Photovoltaic) solution.

High Gain Silicon PV targets commercial and utility scale solar applications ranging from 100 kW (kiloWatts) to 100 MW (MegaWatts) overlapping the high end of crystalline silicon PV and the low end of CSP (Concentrating Solar Power). In addition, it would appear to address a wider range of climates and solar insolations than competing HCPV (High Concentration PhotoVoltaic) solutions.

Skyline Solar seeks to leverage PV industry investments in crystalline silicon solar cell development and combine them with reflective optics and aluminum to create a cost reduced class of tracked system concentration technologies.

As an example, Mr. MacDonald cited the application of reflective materials used for high efficiency lighting and solar thermal to PV. These materials are already in high volume roll to roll production with 10 GW (GigaWatt) annual capacity.

About the system architecture, CEO MacDonald said:

What we are developing is a linear concentrator at the core. It’s a quite straight forward design that takes a reflective optical sheet and forms it into a parabolic section that focuses the light onto a straight line. Along that line you put your linear module. So, it’s essentially a silicon module that’s enclosed by an aluminum reflector.

Among the benefits are complete low end to end cost including simple manufacturability, low cost shipping, efficient installation, capital efficiency, and 20+ year reliability while maximizing generated kilowatt-hours of electricity per silicon solar cell. Challenges of this approach include losing some percentage of the diffuse component of sunlight balanced against the optical structures and thermal management for specific applications and climates.

Regarding the concentration ratio of the High Gain PV solution, Bob MacDonald said:

So we can design that anywhere from 5 to 50x concentration. Of course, we can have very long conversations is that geometric, optic, or peak concentration, but at this stage, we are not yet going into those details.

See the above Picasa slideshow for a photo and Skyline Solar slides.

Skyline Solar was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the Solar Energy Technologies Program Photovoltaic Technology Incubator Selections as part of the Solar America Initiative – Technology Development. On September 29, 2008, DOE to Provide Up to $17.6 Million for Solar Photovoltaic Technology Development included:

Skyline Solar (Mountain View, Calif.) has developed an integrated lightweight, single-axis tracked system that has been demonstrated to reflect and concentrate sunlight over 10X onto silicon cells. The use of mirrors to concentrate light will reduce the use of the greatest cost driver for traditional silicon modules, the solar cells, by over 90%.  Additionally, the design leverages the mainstream PV industrial base and amplifies its capacity through significant concentration to enable rapid scaling. It seeks to dramatically lower the cost to manufacture modules and install complete systems to achieve a levelized cost of energy below grid parity. By the end of this project, Skyline plans to deliver modules that exceed 12m2 area and 15 percent aperture-area efficiency.  (Up to $3 million)

Per the “VC Rumor Mill: Skyline Solar Funding and More” by Eric Wesoff at the Greentech Media Green Light Blog, Skyline Solar has reportedly closed a $25 million round from New Enterprise Associates.

Later during the panel discussion, Bob MacDonald said:

The First Solar of concentration hasn’t yet happened, and I think we are just right on the precipice of that.

SolFocus, Inc. might differ with that observation after “SolFocus and EMPE Solar Sign $103 Million Deal for 10+MW UtilityScale Project” (Ed. Note: this should be projects), yet it is still early in the development of the CPV market.

For further PHOTON’s 1st PV Start-up Conference coverage, please see “First Solar president at PHOTON’s Start-up Conference: »Second solar is upon us«” by Garrett Hering.

The Truth is Out There.

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