Treehugger is spotlighting a cool new solar power module dreamed up by students and researchers from the University of Arizona. The team says that by combining high-efficiency solar cells and mirrors, the new concept is twice as efficient as existing solar panel designs.
The telescope-inspired design uses “a curved mirror to focus sunlight onto a 5-inch glass ball that then spreads the light evenly across a solar panel.” The concept includes the type of highly efficient solar cell that is more typically seen in a space solar applications.
Another secret weapon for the University of Arizona design is the tracking device, mounted on a rotating frame so that it can follow the sun’s progression across the sky during the day and maximize the daylight hours for energy production.
UA graduate student Blake Coughenour is studying at the university’s College of Optical Sciences. He explained more about the tracker’s design: ”The tracker is fully automated. The system wakes itself up in the morning and turns to the East. It knows where the sun will rise even while it’s still below the horizon. It tracks the sun’s path during the day all the way to sunset, then parks itself for the night.”
An big array equipped with the sun trackers described above would produce as much as a large nuclear power plant: 10 GW during the day, according to Roger Angel. Angel is Regents’ Professor of Astronomy and Optical Sciences and director of the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab at the university. But, Angel says, this would cover nearly 50 square miles with solar power modules.
Check out the team’s video explanation of the concept here: