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Power The Almighty Buck Science Technology

Solyndra's Thin-Film Solar Cells Draw $1.2 Billion In Orders 131

Posted by timothy
from the beaming-down-upon-them dept.
SolarSells writes "Solyndra makes funky-looking cylindrical solar cells that resemble compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Their products are meant for office buildings, and are made from a thin coating of copper indium gallium diselenide on glass tubes. Although they might not be able to fill them till 2012, the company has already received $1.2 billion in orders. Their manufacturing tricks make the cells so cheap that they may be competitive with other forms of power even after solar subsidies are phased out."
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Solyndra's Thin-Film Solar Cells Draw $1.2 Billion In Orders

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  • Bright idea (Score:4, Funny)

    by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:28AM (#25286955) Homepage Journal

    Look like fluorescent lights? Great, just install one next to each lamp and it can power itself. Oh, hang on, that won't work, will it? DOH!

  • Glass tubes? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bdenton42 (1313735) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:28AM (#25286961)
    So a good hailstorm will demolish your solar array?
    • Re:Glass tubes? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by X0563511 (793323) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:36AM (#25287101) Homepage Journal

      Just like they demolish your home's windows, and your car's windshield....

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by bdenton42 (1313735)

        If those tubes are as thick as my cars windshield that would be fine... but I'm guessing they are not.

        As far as my home's windows they would certainly be a lot more vulnerable to hail if they were also mounted horizontally.

      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by DigiShaman (671371)

        Just like they demolish your home's windows, and your car's windshield....

        Are they just as cheap to replace?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ApharmdB (572578)
          Since when are home windows and car windshields cheap to replace?
          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by zippthorne (748122)

            The windshield does not represent the majority of the value of the car, nor do windows represent a majority of the value of the home, such that you end up buying a new car or new home every hail storm.

            Solar cells do represent the majority of the cost of solar cells, though, so hail damage basically == full replacement. IOW, they have to completely pay themselves off between hail storms to break even*

            *if they are insufficiently protected from the elements, that is.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Skrapion (955066)

              The windshield does not represent the majority of the value of the car, nor do windows represent a majority of the value of the home, such that you end up buying a new car or new home every hail storm.

              I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay for the full replacement of a drinking glass than pay to have a windshield replaced.

              Whether or not it's a full replacement is a pretty meaningless distinction.

      • The article states that these solar tubes can be constructed from metal also...

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        Well window very rarely take the impact from hail. The are protected by the roof and are vertical.
        You cars windshield is safety glass and is very thick.
        Do you know for a fact that these tubes are as strong as a car windshield?
        Or are just posting a none fact to a valid question.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Basically you called me. But a later reply from me indeed invalidated this concern... there's no reason one of those metal roll-up rails can't be installed above the tubes. Or something similar. The parent assumes the tubes will be mounted naked - which would be absurd.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by LWATCDR (28044)

            Actually nope your wrong again.
            someone from the company posted that they did test it for hail. They didn't give any real info about the hail size that they tested too but since this guy says they used a paint ball gun it is not very large.
            So nope they do attend to mount them naked from what the guy from the company posted.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Erioll (229536)

      Very true, but there are also a lot of places in the world (and even in the USA) where hail is virtually unknown, so for those markets it'd work.

      But yes, that definitely wouldn't be where I live, as we get hail multiple times per year. Those things would get massacred up here.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Hairy Heron (1296923)
        Yeah because no one probably ever thought of putting protection up for these solar arrays for situations like that. Good thing we had you around so that you could point out this problem that no one else in the rest of the world ever thought of.
    • by ozphx (1061292)

      Hey, I've got an idea. We'll put whatever crap we put over existing solar panels above them?

      Bet nobody thought of that ingenious trick!

      Some thicker glass... coming out the top of the array there. Oh yeah that looks really good. Check out all its MAJESTY.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by chill (34294)

        Meh. Thicker glass will still break. Try plywood. We use it to cover windows in hurricanes and big storms and it works great!

      • by Khyber (864651)

        Glass eats light. Covering a solar cell with glass reduces its efficiency. I've had to prove this time and time again in gardening forums with light meters and varying panes of glass. Even "clear" glass isn't truly clear.

        I'd rather use something with more optical transparency, like Lexan.

    • A sudden hailstorm looks like it would be a problem -- you'd lose a number of tubes. However, if you have time to respond... I would like to think the tubes are sturdier than they look. It does appears the tubes have endcaps not unlike the single pin flourescent tubes. A maintenance team could pull the tubes in advance of an approaching storm system and put them into protected storage, then re-insert them once the storm was past.
      • by X0563511 (793323)

        I'm sure you could mount something up there like what they use to close some shop doors/windows - like Venetian blinds but made of metal. Flip a switch and a motor deploys the shield. Flip the switch back and it retracts the shield. Or, you could do it the old fashioned way of a chain-pulley system.

    • Re:Glass tubes? (Score:4, Informative)

      by solyndra08 (1380533) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:48PM (#25292467)
      I work as a process engineer Solyndra, I don't know if it is right for me to comment on this or not, but fighting bogosity is my hobby. Of course we did hail tests, I was involved. We shot homemade hail iceball out of a painball gun at our panels and confirmed that they could survive. Our panels have already been through hailstorms around the world. No tube breaks due to hail.
      • by GaryOlson (737642)

        We shot homemade hail iceball out of a painball gun at our panels...

        That sounds like too much fun to get paid...

        Did you happen to increase the mass of the projectile till you actually broke a tube? One time, a less than competent machinist rammed a large machine tool into a very large material chuck spinning at 5000 RPM. A 15lb steel clamp block ejected thru the "safety glass" window, thru the false ceiling, and thru the roof to land on the building next door. Would your tubes have survived such an industr

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        Up to what size hail?
        Not an issue where I live since we don't have a lot of big hail.
        Asking the question is not bogosity giving an answer with out facts is.
        Since it looks like you are the only one here that has any facts thank you for the answer.

  • Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eddy Luten (1166889) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:29AM (#25286967)
    It's good to see that people still invest in alternative sources of energy. $1.2B in pre-orders can't be bad and (I think) shows a great sign of faith in these technologies.
    • It's not investing.

      "Their manufacturing tricks make the cells so cheap that they may be competitive with other forms of power even after solar subsidies are phased out."

      These babies can't compete without the government giving them an advantage.

      • by Tim Doran (910)

        Right - unlike the mainstream energy sources (oil, coal, nuclear) which toil day in and day out, competing to power our lifestyles without any love from the government.

        • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

          by OldeTimeGeek (725417) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @12:40PM (#25288187)
          Yeah, it's not as though nuclear power [tradewatch.org] or oil [cato.org] or coal [nytimes.com] companies have come to the Congress with their hands held out, is it?
          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Nope, it's just that solar and wind get an order of magnitude more subsidies, and a shitton less regulation.

            • by Halo1 (136547)

              Nope, it's just that solar and wind get an order of magnitude more subsidies

              At least in Europe that's not true [mineco.fgov.be] (Dutch, and also in French [mineco.fgov.be]).

              That table shows, from left to right, European subsidies to energy production based on resp. fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewable energy. Vertically, the rows read "money transfers and fiscal support", "non-internalised external costs", "transfer of past subsidies", "preferential treatment", and "total".

              It's based on numbers from 2001 and I guess in the mean time th

          • Who doesn't ask for money from congress?
            I'd be willing to fund something that exists, is proven, and powers the damned country more than I'd be willing to fund some pie-in-the-sky never-fulfill-our-promises alternative form of energy.

            The alternative forms of energy gets TONS more money anyway, with far less regulation, and almost ZERO requirement of actually doing anything useful.

            • by b0bby (201198)

              The alternative forms of energy gets TONS more money anyway, with far less regulation, and almost ZERO requirement of actually doing anything useful.

              From this:
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Policy_Act_of_2005 [wikipedia.org]
              I'd say that Nuclear & fossil get $7.1 billion, while all renewables + conservation get $7.4 billion; not tons more, and not an order of magnitude as the AC above suggests.
              If the charts on this page are to believed:
              http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/09/us-energy-subsidies-updated.html [nextbigfuture.com]
              then the share of money over the period 1950-2006 devoted to renewables comes to 6%.

              • The vast majority gets less than the small minority.
                What sense does that make?

                Nuclear and fossil deliver.

                Measure that shit in net $/kWH delivered, and then we'll talk.

      • These babies can't compete without the government giving them an advantage.

        Just like fossil fuels wouldn't be able to compete if their external costs were appropriately assigned to them, and nuclear power couldn't compete if plant operators had to buy liability insurance at actual market rates.

        • Fossils fuels currently have no real competition, silly. Nor would they have if they had cost 10 times what the did during the industrial revolution.

          Please, show me how you would appropriately assign their external costs to them.

          Liability insurance? Market rates?
          Insurers would compete to insure a nuclear plant. It's safe, clean power. Insurers compete using tons of statistical data and analysis.

          Men pay more for car insurance even though statistically women are worse drivers. Men end up paying more beca

          • Please, show me how you would appropriately assign their external costs to them.

            Well, for starteers, assign most of the cost of our military to oil, since their main job is to keep volatile parts of the world stable enough to ship oil to us.

            Then, assign the cost of cleaning up mercury pollution in most of the nation's lakes and treating a good percentage of repiratory illnesses to coal.

            The list goes on and on, and that's not even assuming that serious climate change scenarios may transpire. If you allow for those, multiply everything above by orders of magnitude to cover the costs of

            • Well, for starteers, assign most of the cost of our military to oil

              I stopped reading there.

              Nutjob confirmed.

              • I stopped reading there.

                Your loss. You might have learned something.

                Instead, when you saw that you might be confronted with information that doesn't neatly fit with your preconceptions, you stick your fingers in your ears and yell "Nyah, nyah, I can't hear you!"

              • by i_b_don (1049110)

                "most of the cost to military to oil" is a bit of a stretch... but the cost of the iraq war would be a valid claim. You think we'd give two shakes of a rats ass about iraq if it weren't for oil? i think not.

                d

                • That whole Saddam thing back when Daddy Bush was in office might have had something to do with it.

                  But hell, why not add in the cost of the cold war and the space program. After all, Russia's got the most recoverable oil out of anyone in the world, as well as the most natural gas, and back when they were the USSR, they had even more under their curtain, and were pushing into the middle east and pacific.

                  They're just waiting for the rest of the world to burn through the middle east and then Putin will crush u

  • bottom-up power (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xappax (876447) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:30AM (#25286983)
    "What Gronet envisions is solar panels installed on your average Home Depot or Ikea, generating a substantial percentage of the company's power needs right on site."

    This is the best possible outcome of the energy crisis: an efficient, sustainable, and most importantly decentralized power infrastructure. Let's hope these technologies really do take hold.
  • Who bought em? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gertlex (722812) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:35AM (#25287063)

    Aside from hype about "competing with other power sources" (it's old hype... I can't quite give a damn if it's for real or not this time), I wonder what the distribution of their clients is... (mainly by nationality)

    And I'd bet this number predates the economic crisis... I do wonder how many of these orders will be withdrawn; though I'm sure it won't be enough to slow Solyndra's production at peak capacity.

    • So the power grid is kind of like the poor family that can only afford a busted money pit of a car to get dad to work and back. It is always needing repairs, and ends up costing more in the long run than just buying a new car. But with out being able to get enough cash together for the new car you are stuck with the rust bucket.
  • Link? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rufus t firefly (35399) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:36AM (#25287095) Homepage
    Obligatory link [solyndra.com] to manufacturer.
  • Nanosolar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scorp1us (235526) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:37AM (#25287125) Journal

    While were slashvertising, let's not forget Nanodsolar [wikipedia.org] which also does thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide trick. But it seems that instead of tubes, you can just get a sheet (on what appears to be a Mylar substrate).

    I wonder about the cylindrical shape, this would seem to block 50% of the surface area, where the sides and underside would produce less electricity than a flat sheet of the same area.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder about the cylindrical shape, this would seem to block 50% of the surface area, where the sides and underside would produce less electricity than a flat sheet of the same area.

      Well it means that part of each cylinder is always more-or-less directly facing the sun without being moved/rotated in some way, plus you could always put a white or reflective material underneath the cylinder racks to reflect a a good portion of the missed light onto the underside of the cylinders.

      • by cpotoso (606303)
        Nevertheless, a simple geometrical argument shows that it is ALWAYS more efficient (less amount of material used) to have a flat panel (if correctly oriented then so much better). The cylindrical shape must be a requirement of manufacturing, and they are trying to sell it as a good thing, but it is obviously not.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Jeanius (1369311)
          This link [technologyreview.com] says the cylindrical shape contributes to better solar absorption throughout the day, and offer less wind resistance. Looking at the picture in the article, they seem to be more like half-cylinders. That'd make sense, that while geometrically they don't have their face optimally pointed towards the sun at some optimal point during the day, they're continually pointed at the sun with some constant exposed amount of surface area.
          • by Jeanius (1369311)
            Sorry, they *effectively* look to be more like half-cylinders.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by idontgno (624372)

              Which, by some miracle, don't need to be steered. They are magical half-cylinders which always point at any available light source. And, for whatever reason, you seem to be deliberately ignoring the value of reflecting light back from beneath the cylinders. So, effectively, they looks like self-steering half-cylinders plus the other half cylinder gathering "waste" light.

              Don't underestimate the value of "don't need to be steered". Eliminating those moving parts and the associated control automation shaves a

              • by idontgno (624372)

                And, for whatever reason, you seem to be deliberately ignoring the value of reflecting light back from beneath the cylinders.

                And by "you", I mean those in this thread who are ignoring the value of reflected light on the underside of the cylindrical collector. Not "you", Jeanius [slashdot.org]. I don't think I'm arguing with you, although I responded to your post.

                Damn comment threading system making me hassle my own side.

                • by Jeanius (1369311)
                  No offense taken. I was referring to the link I posted previously, in that they looked effectively like half-cylinders due to them being mounted almost flush with the roof. They would need to be steered, although their cylindrical shape would reduce the need for highly robust mounts to counteract the wind. And they wouldn't need to be steered as drastically in all directions since they're facing the sun constantly.
              • by ozphx (1061292)

                Yeah and TBH at a buck a watt I don't care how inefficient it is anyway, if thats the output. I've got plenty of roof area to put more of them up.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Slashvertiseing? They're 4 years backed up on orders. I don't think they care right now about getting new ones.
    • by eagee (1308589)
      Hey and let's not forget Global Solar either, because they produce thin-film coppe... oh wait... that's right... the article mentions both of them... slashvertising indeed...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I wonder about the cylindrical shape, this would seem to block 50% of the surface area, where the sides and underside would produce less electricity than a flat sheet of the same area.

      It seems counterintuitive, but if you do the calculus, it ends up being equivalent. You get more surface area, but with less direct angle of incidence (assuming the plane is perfectly aligned), so that it exactly balances out. And you have to do less repositioning.

      There's a name for the principle that states it generally, bu

      • by mrcaseyj (902945)

        >I wonder about the cylindrical shape, this would seem to block 50% of the surface area, where the sides and underside would produce less electricity than a flat sheet of the same area.

        >>It seems counterintuitive, but if you do the calculus, it ends up being equivalent.

        Nice try. Are you being paid by Solyndra or something? The stuff about calculus and physics you threw in to make your claims seem more credible is a nice touch.

        I'm pretty sure you can't do any better than flat. And a cylinder or half

        • by swillden (191260)
          You ignored angle of incidence. I don't know if it's a big enough issue to make up for reduced lit surface, but I can tell you that with traditional PV cells, the angle makes a huge difference. Tilting the 140W panel I have can make it generate up to 6x more power, even though the worst angle still has the full panel surface in the sun.
          • by mrcaseyj (902945)

            I didn't ignore angle of incidence. I assumed flat panels set at the best angle for the sun at noon. If the cells are left at the same angle all year, then that makes the tubes slightly less bad in comparison, but still much worse than flat cells.

            As far as the change in angle from morning to noon and then evening, the two systems, cylindrical and flat, are equivalent.

            • by swillden (191260)

              It's a lot more difficult to build an array that can be adjusted for angle throughout the course of the year, and it makes the system much more vulnerable to weather damage. Not to mention the cost of actually adjusting all those panels ever week or two. If you're going to go that far, you might as well install a sun tracking system.

              Even installing a fixed-angle system that faces the average annual noon sun position is more expensive and complex than one which just follows the roof contour. Having inst

        • a cylinder or half cylinder solar film is much less efficient than flat. The perimeter of a half circle with a diameter of one, is pi/2, or about 1.57. So that means you'll have to buy 57% more solar panel area than you would if you bought flat ones.

          YOu're not talking about efficenicy, you're talking about cost. What I said is the cylinder is just as efficent, which means it generates as much energy as somthing that takes up an equivalent footprint on your roof (if that flat panel is angled perfectly). Ye

          • by mrcaseyj (902945)

            In your original article you quoted a poster saying:

            >I wonder about the cylindrical shape, this would seem to block 50% of the surface area, where the sides and underside would produce less electricity than a flat sheet of the same area.

            This poster is assuming that the solar film is covering the surface of the cylinder all the way around and is comparing these tubes to a flat solar panel with equivalent solar film area facing the sun. That would give a flat panel with approximately pi times or about trip

            • The sides would produce less electricity per square inch. But as you pointed out, there are more square inches.

              Yes, I refer to energy per surface area of the roof. Space seems to be the limiting factor.

              The reason for the gaps is so that at extreme angles of incidence, the cells seem dense. For an optimal flat array at the extreme angle, the same gaps are required.

              Whether it would be worth the labor to change the angle a couple times a year is another question

              For those of us not lucky enough to live close

              • by mrcaseyj (902945)

                >The sides would produce less electricity per square inch. But as you pointed out, there are more square inches.

                No there wouldn't be more square inches. The comment you originally quoted was referring to the fact that if you have one square meter of solar film and you wrap it around a bunch of cylinders then you will collect less energy than if you spread that square meter out flat and mount it at the best angle to catch the noon sun. You said they turned out to be equivalent(even if that's not what you

                • he comment you originally quoted was referring to the fact that if you have one square meter of solar film and you wrap it around a bunch of cylinders then you will collect less energy than if you spread that square meter out flat

                  That's not what I'm saying. I'm talking about roof area. It will take more meters of film, I concede that, but it will be cheaper than making the films move. And it will fit more film per square meter on the roof.

                  The advantage of tubes over flat panels in capturing energy per ar

                  • by mrcaseyj (902945)
                    You're still way off. This could go back and forth for a long time and I don't have that much time to spend on this, so I'm going to leave it here.
  • I don't get it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wonkavader (605434) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:38AM (#25287153)

    They're letting valuable light past. They're getting a little of it back on the rebound. The round design means some of the cell is always straight on to the sun, but it's a VERY small part.

    Wouldn't a flat roof of the same material be much more efficient?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:45AM (#25287263)

      I don't know the answer. But I am certain that such questions never occurred to the two Stanford engineering PhDs who founded the company, or the tens more they have subsequently hired to do R&D.

    • by andy19 (1250844)
      I'm sure putting some sort of highly reflective material directly under the tubes will help increase the efficiency of the tubes.
      • I just the other day got, a solar cell was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

        Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the roof commercially.

        So you want to talk about the consumer? Let's talk about you and me. We use this solar cell for power and we aren't using it for commercial purposes.

        We aren't earning anything by going on that solar cell. Now I'm not saying you have to or you want to discriminate against those people. The r
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigmo (181402)

      It may be that the tubes are used with concentrating reflectors, so that the back side is in fact the highest output and the front side is just a little extra from the direct illumination. The tube design would also allow a fluid to be circulated to pick up any heat gain that would go along with the concentrating reflectors.

    • by ruin20 (1242396)

      Solyndra's cylindrical solar modules collect sunlight more efficiently across a broader range of angles and catch light reflected off the roof itself

      Plus it seems like these are MUCH cheaper to produce per unit than standard wafer based PV. Essentially there's a coating system applied to the tube and then just a pressing of an adapter on either end. However I will state, according to the article, they may become more cost efficient than other conventional power options, they are not there yet as they aren't getting optimal yield out of the PV technology.

      The advantage they have is this is very producible, and scalable. It's much easier to tap into a tu

  • Nice to know that these "may be competitive with other forms of power even after solar subsidies are phased out."

    Any idea what the unsubsidized cost per watt is today?

    -- Should you believe authority without question?

  • Is this for real? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:50AM (#25287349) Homepage

    The Solyndra tubes have me puzzled.

    First, they're round, with the active surface uniform around the tube. So only a fraction of the active surface is doing much. Unless they can make active surface far cheaper than anybody else, this is a lose.

    The claimed advantage of this approach is supposed to be that the units can be mounted flat to the roof. But you can do that with flat solar panels; it just costs you about 30% of the output because you're not getting max sun input per unit area. Solyndra is paying a bigger oblique penalty than that; they're probably losing 60% over a flat panel pointed roughly at the sun.

    Their web site has no numbers on prices, costs, efficiency, output per unit area, or third party test results. That's a bad sign.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mr._Galt (608248)
      The claim on the site is that the cylinders can harvest indirect and reflected light as well. Conventional panels only use direct light. Therefore a horizontal mount is optimum for these cylinders since they will receive some direct light any time of day while still receiving reflected and indirect light. They also show how you can cover vastly larger areas with their cells because of the way they are mounted and designed to handle wind loads. The increase in coverage should more than make up for any lo
      • Re:Is this for real? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by smellsofbikes (890263) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @12:25PM (#25287893) Journal

        Since mirrors are cheap compared to solar cells, wouldn't it make more sense to mount these tubes at the focal point of a linear/parabolic mirror? That really seems exactly what these were designed for, not just harvesting off-axis light.
        What am I missing here? Doesn't it seem like this is the perfect answer to a question they don't seem to have asked?

        • by idontgno (624372)

          Focusing mirrors have to be actively steered (Sun-tracking). Steering is expensive and more maintenance-intensive than a bunch of tubes just lying there. Ultimately, that's overkill for a "slap it up on the roof" retrofit application.

          OTOH, an underlayment of flat mirrors would serve as a nice "second chance" enhancement, getting photons that lucked out and missed the surface of the cylindrical collector the first time past.

          If we're not talking about a static installation, I don't think the "cylindrical coll

        • by Urkki (668283)

          Mirrors with focal points need to follow the sun. That's moving parts. Moving parts are not good, they cost money and they break down and they are more complex to install. Even if installation cost of no-moving-parts solution is a bit more, you'd still want to take it over a moving-parts solution.

    • So long as the Sun is up, a properly oriented tube will always have a thin line with perfect angle of incidence to the Sun, and a region somewhat less than half the tube's diameter that has a pretty good angle of incidence. Over the course of the day, the amount of surface area that is in excellent to good relationship to the Sun's rays is nearly constant, and if the tubes are spaced optimally, this area is nearly as large as that which a flat panel array of the same size would provide. Plus, the tube is se

    • by pz (113803)

      But -- they gain hugely compared to standard flat panels in structural rigidity for the same amount of material.

      As mentioned on their web site, the tubes are far more wind tolerant than large panels. Also remember that just because a solar cell isn't pointing directly at the sun doesn't mean it completely loses efficiency -- it primarily loses efficiency because it's not getting as many photons striking the surface as if it were oriented correctly.

      A good comparison on how much insolation they'll catch is t

  • is people?! (Score:3, Funny)

    by DirkGently (32794) <dirk@nospaM.lemongecko.org> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @12:16PM (#25287777) Homepage

    There has to be some way to tie together "Solyndra" and "green" and "is people". Step up the puns here, people.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      There has to be some way to tie together "Solyndra" and "green" and "is people".

      Solyndra green is people.

      There ya go. Not sure what your difficulty was, actually.

  • If you read the article you might get a positive impression about these guys, but when you look at their picture gallery, it is clear these guys have had waaaay too much money to play with. Robots everywhere, it looks like a car manufacturing plant. Autonomous vehicles that transport the goods around? What is wrong with their hands, are they all engineers afraid to get their hands dirty? Robots may look very cool, and may be cheaper than humans in the long run. But if you are just starting up, won't real hu

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cowscows (103644)

      If you've already got 1.2 billion dollars in orders, you can probably throw a little bit of money towards automating your production line. And while I don't know much about the specifics of this particular product, solar panel manufacturing is generally a fairly high precision activity, and often involves raw materials that aren't the most healthy substances for humans to be around. A nice, clean, automated production facility is ideal for solar panels.

      This isn't a couple of guys who started a business out

    • Their manufacturing plant is a former hard-disk factory. Which makes sense, since much of the coating equipment and the material-handling equipment would be similar. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of their equipment was pulled out of storage from the former factory owners for pennies on the dollar.

      Some of the robots might be strictly for the gee-whiz factor, but given that they're trying to make a new technology economical, automating production as much as possible is just good sense.

    • by infolib (618234)

      are they all engineers afraid to get their hands dirty?

      They might be engineers afraid to get their product dirty. Semiconductor nanofilms seem like the kind of product that might be sensible to contamination. Besides, they have to aim for economies of scale. The testing cells they can make in little labs, one square mm at a time.

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