Morgan Solar is attempting to build a bridge between low cost and high efficiency by concentrating an immense amount of solar energy on to a tiny thumbnail space lined with a superefficient cell from a Cyrium, Emcore or Spectrolab.via The Star and Clean Break
The idea is that such a small fraction of the costly solar cell is needed and so much of the sun's energy is focused on it, that material costs can be kept to a minimum and efficiency can be increased.
It's an approach dubbed "concentrating photovoltaics," or CSP, and a number of companies are in the race, among them U.S. ventures GreenVolts, Energy Innovations, and SolFocus, as well as Ottawa-based Menova Energy.
Morgan Solar has come up with a completely different approach that relies on what it calls a light-guided solar optic. Basically, pieces of acrylic or glass are designed to capture sunlight as it hits a triangular surface less than a centimetre thick. Once inside the material, the sunlight is trapped and corralled through a bottom layer to one corner, where a tiny sliver of solar cell is positioned to absorb the barrage of concentrated light.
The triangles are packaged together to form a square about the size of a Compact Disc case and dozens of these squares make up a single panel.
"It's bloody amazing," says William Masek, president and chief technology officer of Brockville-based Upper Canada Solar Generation Ltd., which has plans to build 50 megawatts of solar farms in Ontario. In the next few weeks he will begin field-testing Morgan Solar's prototypes. "They probably have the most breakthrough solar technology announced in a long time."
Masek says the cost savings for him could be enormous if the technology, as claimed, can affordably convert more of the sun's energy to electricity per square metre than conventional solar panels. "With traditional solar panels we'll need over a thousand acres of property. But if we switch to their system, we can cut that land requirement in half and also substantially cut our costs," he says.
The materials that make up the panels are nothing fancy or expensive, Nicolas Morgan says during an interview at the company's office. The solar panels are flatter than the competition, lighter, cheaper to build and can concentrate the light at up to 1,500. "This is completely new. Nobody has done it this way," he says.