FREMONT, California — Solar cells have been converting sunlight into electricity for years, but scientists have been much less successful at turning that technology into money.

Now, in a staid Bay Area office park, a converted hard-drive factory with a shiny new faÃ§ade has begun churning out unconventional solar tubes that could change the economics of solar power.

The highly-automated factory belongs to Solyndra, a three-year-old company that has received \$600 million in venture capital and \$1.2 billion in orders for its new modules, which look like curtain rods. Those big investors are betting the company’s unique product will soon blanket commercial buildings across the world.

Instead of the standard panels mounted on racks that have dominated solar for the last 20 years, Solyndra’s cylindrical solar modules collect sunlight more efficiently across a broader range of angles and catch light reflected off the roof itself. The solar cells also contain no silicon, which has been a costly component of most solar systems.

## 12 thoughts on “Solar roll ups”

1. cyenobite2 says:

I just thought I’d throw this out there to the make readers to see if anyone knows the answer to this…

I “think” that the sun’s solar rays hit the earth from a fairly flat plane, since the sun is so far away.
I’ve seen the flat panels that are put on motors so they can rotate with the sun.
Now, I see these “tubes” that appear to eliminate the use of the motors, but with a tube, there would be less surface area pointing directly at the sun. It seems like a flat panel would still be more beneficial to me.
Hmm, I’m not doing a good job phrasing this into a question.
Lets see if I can reword this:
Does a tube really provide better surface area than a flat panel?
If anyone can explain this to me I’d appreciate it.

2. BigD145 says:

Take a flat panel with 1 unit of width, multiply it by 3.14, curve the edges back until they touch and make a cyclinder, and you have a solar panel with 3.14 units of surface area that takes up only 1 unit of horizontal space. You’ll lose some horizontal area by making space between cylinders, but not as much as you just gained.

The thing about flat panels is that they rarely drop below 80% maximum efficiency even when you turn them 30+ degrees away from the sun. They work in shade and under cover of clouds.

3. Chris says:

Yes, but the key is still the effective surface area presented to the incoming solar radiation, which is still just the width of 1. These cells do allow some pickup of reflected/refracted light, however. Other advantages include lack of tracking motors (as mentioned above) and increased cooling airflow.

4. Unbwogable says:

It’s also lacking silicon, which is quite costly, so while these may not be 100% as efficient as the panels, they are a fraction of the cost… Now as long as you can get the same watts-per-dollar (meaning that since they are less efficient, you have to buy more, making the fact that you are saving money a null point), we are good to go

5. BigD145 says:

The width is not one unit. You need to stop thinking in 2 dimensions. The width is 3.14/2 stretched into 3 dimensions. Then there’s the reflective paint on the roof that bounces light from the gaps back onto the other half of that 3.14 units.

6. cyenobite2 says:

Just saying thanks to those who responded.