Solyndra, Inc. today announced a new solar photovoltaic (PV) system for the commercial rooftop market. Solyndra’s PV system is designed to generate significantly more solar electricity on an annual basis from typical low-slope commercial rooftops with lower installation costs than conventional PV flat panel technologies. Commercial rooftops represent a vast, underutilized resource and huge opportunity for generating solar electricity. Since its founding in 2005, Solyndra has been developing technology and ramping manufacturing capacity to produce its proprietary CIGS-based thin film PV system. Solyndra is currently shipping its systems, comprised of panels and mounting hardware, to fulfill more than $1.2 billion of multi-year contracts with customers in Europe and the United States.
THE NEW SHAPE OF SOLAR
Solyndra’s panels employ cylindrical modules which capture sunlight across a 360-degree photovoltaic surface capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. This self-tracking design allows Solyndra’s PV systems to capture significantly more sunlight than traditional flat-surfaced solar panels, which require costly tilted mounting devices to improve the capture of direct light, offer poor collection of diffuse light and fail to collect reflected light from rooftops or other installation surfaces.
Conventional flat PV panels must be mounted at an angle and spaced apart for optimum energy production. The sunlight striking the spaces between the panels is not collected and thus is wasted. Solyndra’s panels perform optimally when mounted horizontally and packed closely together, thereby covering significantly more of the available roof area and producing more electricity per rooftop on an annual basis than a conventional panel installation.
To meet rooftop wind loading requirements, conventional flat solar panels must be anchored to commercial roofs with either ballast or rooftop penetrations, which are inherently problematic. Together with the need for tilting, the resulting complex mounting systems require significant investment in labor, materials and engineering. Conversely, because wind blows through Solyndra panels, no rooftop anchoring is required. Further, the low weight of the Solyndra system enables the installation of PV on a broader range of rooftops.
For typical conventional PV installations, a solar panel is only half the cost of a complete installation; the other half includes additional expenses such as installation, cables, and inverters. The horizontal mounting and unique air-flow properties of Solyndra’s solar panel design substantially simplify the installation process for Solyndra’s PV systems. The ease of installation and simpler mounting hardware of Solyndra’s system enables its customers to realize significant savings on installation costs.
“By eliminating the need for roof-penetrating mounts and wind ballasts, PV arrays with Solyndra panels can be installed with one-third the labor, in one-third of the time, at one-half the cost,” said Manfred Bachler, Chief Technical Officer at Phoenix Solar AG, one of the largest solar power integrators in Europe and a Solyndra customer. “For commercial rooftops, PV module installation time can now be measured in days, not weeks. For flat commercial rooftops this is game-changing technology.”
According to Solyndra founder and CEO Chris Gronet, “Solyndra’s system uniquely optimizes PV performance on commercial rooftops by converting more of the sunlight that strikes the total rooftop area into electricity while also providing for a lower installation cost and lower cost of electricity.”