October 7, 2008 in Energy | 8 comments | Post a comment
Cylindrical Solar Cells Give a Whole New Meaning to Sunroof
Solyndra hopes to capture the wasted sunlight falling on roofs by making solar cells into cylinders rather than panels

By David Biello

SUN ROOF: Panels of cylindrical solar cells cover this roof in California and potentially offer a cheaper solution for photovoltaic power from rooftops.
Courtesy of Solyndra

There are approximately 30 billion square feet (2.8 billion square meters) of expansive, flat roofs in the U.S., an area large enough to collect the sunlight needed to power 16 million American homes, or replace 38 conventional coal-fired power plants. By covering these roofs with large, flat arrays of cylindrical thin-film solar cells (think massive installations of fluorescent tubes, only absorbing light rather than emitting it), Fremont, Calif.–based Solyndra, Inc., hopes to harness that energy.

"With a cylinder, we are collecting light from all angles, even collecting diffuse light," says CEO Chris Gronet, who founded the solar cylinder company in 2005 based on an idea he had late one night while pondering less expensive ways to install photovoltaic panels. Because the arrays do not have to be angled or anchored into the roof, he adds, "we have half the installation cost and can install in one third the time."