SUNRGI says: Affordable solar power possible in a year

USA Today reports that SUNRGI, a Silicon Valley start-up with big plans, says that they have developed technology that will deliver solar power in about one year at prices competitive with coal-produced electricity. If they can pull it off, it would dramatically cut the cost of solar electricity, and put SUNRGI far ahead of other solar cell producers.

SUNRGI uses a ‘concentrated photovoltaic system that uses lenses to magnify the sun’s rays – as much as 2,000 times. SUNRGI expects to start producing the solar panels by mid-2009, and they’re targeting a price that will mean it’ll cost about 7 cents a kilowatt hour – and that price includes installation. “We’re bringing the cost of solar electricity down to be competitive with” fossil fuels, says Bob Block, a co-founder of SUNRGI.

SUNRGI concentrated photovoltaic solar cell
Tech firm SUNRGI says its 'concentrated photovoltaic' system could revolutionize the solar power industry
While other companies use concentrated photovoltaics in their systems, SUNRGI says that their product is different. While others magnify the sun about 500 times, SUNRGI says that their lenses can magnify the sun 2,000 times because their product has the ability to cool the germanium-based semiconductors from 3,300 degrees to close to ambient temperatures. When concentrating solar cells get too hot, they can melt – an issue that SUNRGI says that it has solved. SUNRGI also says that they have a very efficient semiconductor that converts 37% of the sunlight to electricity, which is more than double the industry’s average.Now SUNRGI is not yet mass producing their modules, so much remains to be seen. As Stow Walker of Cambridge Energy Research Associates says, “Moving from the lab to the market in two years is typically not what happens.” So we’ll see if SUNRGI’s claims will come true or if this is another example of another company making grandiose claims that never seem to come true.

One thing that’s not part of the article, but let’s hope that SUNRGI and other companies are considering, is the heat that’s being generated could be used to heat water – so you could get a twofer with these cells – electricity and solar generated hot water.

You can check out SUNRGI’s web site here.

via USA Today

Update 5/7/08 – MIT Technology Review has some more information about Sunrgi, their process, and the people behind the company. Two things of note – Sunrgi is working on capturing the waste heat from the cells and converting that to useful energy. According to Sunrgi’s electronics engineer Thomas Forrester, they currently have some patents pending on designs to use the waste heat and convert it to useful energy. Also, most of the people behind the company have expertise in manufacturing. Forrester says, “The question people ask us is, why hasn’t any other solar company done this? Well, we’re taking a different approach that directly applies principles from chip manufacturing. That’s one of the keys to our technology.”

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