Monday, July 25, 2005

The Sunflower Solar Concentrator

I got to this Wired article via Emergic

Bill Gross, a dotcom millionnaire and survivor, is the force behind another potentially revolutionary solar concentrator called the Sunflower. The revolution aspect relates to the fact that this device moves all its concentrator panels to always point to the sun, using a novel method that uses only two motors for all the huge panels. The device is currently undergoing stringent stress testing to ensure it survive 15 years or so.

Some interesting points are made in the article.

Even in sunny places like California, the pre-rebate cost of PV-generated electricity is roughly 21 cents per kilowatt-hour. Coal (from 4.74 cents per kilowatt-hour), natural gas (5.15 cents), nukes (5.92 cents), even windmills (5.15 cents) offer cheaper ways to keep the lights on.

Solar panels are small enough to fit on has the potential to cut out the middleman...

[so] instead of competing with wholesale power from distant power plants, rooftop solar competes with retail kilowatt-hours delivered by the local electric company, which often are marked up as much as 1,000 percent over their original generating cost.

...retail prices typically peak on hot, sunny summer days...precisely when solar panels are most productive.

"Right now, PV solar has a 20-year payback, but people are still buying it," he [Gross] says. "Our target for California is five. In Phoenix we could do 3.3."
Here is how it works