If you look into your crystal ball, you’ll note at least a few reasons why solar power isn’t taking over for fossil fuels in the numbers we’d like to see.
Part of the problem is that PV (photovoltaic) solar power simply isn’t that efficient. Tracking PV panels, that is, PV panels that tilt and rotate to track the sun, may have efficiency ratings topping out at 15%, and fixed PV panels are even worse, losing up to 60% of their efficiency thanks to Earth’s tilt and rotation. A German architect, currently located in Spain, may have come across a solution. Andre Broessel’s Rawlemon incorporates a dual-axis tracking system and a spherical lens, the “crystal ball,” to greatly increase the efficiency of a PV system.
The Rawlemon’s unusual spherical lens concentrates light by some 10,000 times. This means that, even though the PV panel has been reduced to just 1% of its original size, the Rawlemon can generate electricity more efficiently from sunlight, even on cloudy days, even in latitudes that aren’t traditionally considered to be particularly efficient solar power zones. The lens’ concentrating effects even work in moonlight, and the Rawlemon can generate electricity even at night, albeit at significantly reduced levels.
Overall, Broessel calculates that the combination of spherical lens and dual-axis tracking increases solar power output 70% over conventional PV systems, in spite of reducing the PV panel’s size so drastically. Considering that 1% of the PV solar cells can produce 70% more energy than 100% of a full traditional PV panel, this would result in a significant decrease in PV system costs, as well as enable greater adoption of solar power systems.
Image © Rawlemon