The challenge with solar energy is to figure out how to make it cheap and so everybody in the industry takes his shot. It’s also the case with astronomer Roger Angel, who put the basis of REhnu Company and is now asserting that the big new solar collector he plans to build will bring down the cost of solar to $1 per watt no later than 8 years from now.
How big are we talking now? A 3.1 meters in diameter mirror, that’s how big. He’s not quite the first to try it and certainly not the first to say it, but since he’ll improve the exact same aspects where the rest failed, then he might just pull it off.
By using thin sheets of cheap float glass to make the mirrors, a trick borrowed from windows, he will definitely keep costs down. When heated, they’ll melt into a parabolic mold and become reflective as soon as their temperature drop. A spherical glass receiver will direct light to three-layered solar cells.
This is basically the technology Angel is planning to adopt on his 20-kilowatt prototype with a lightweight frame, that will be planted on a test site in the Arizona desert. If all goes well, then a gigawatt of electricity will be provide by as much as 15 square kilometers.
That isn’t to say Angel hasn’t learned from his mistakes or evolved: twenty years ago, he set up a honeycomb-structure mirror 6.5-meters in diameter at the University of Arizona and an 8.4-meters 5 years later.
[via New Scientist]