Well Skypower Solutions’ new dish will power your house and heat your water, too.
The company introduced a 2-kilowatt, 12-foot, concentrating photovoltaic system that’s also a solar hot water heater, and it’s small enough to fit in a backyard.
Most CPV systems available today are designed for commercial-scale installations, since the cells used in them are more expensive than conventional solar cells. But since they work at much higher efficiency levels than other PV cells and can take on even more photons when sunlight is concentrated on them, they’re being used in more applications, just not for residential solar.
Skypower’s system uses high-efficiency triple-junction PV cells, said spokesperson Richard Ralston. But their efficiency is impacted by heat—with too much heat they won’t operate as effectively.
The company recently found that a copper heat sink that’s water-cooled provides an effective heat sink that keeps the cells cooler, allowing them to function more effectively.
“The solar energy is concentrated using 1,000 Suns to a focal point. It’s at this point the heat must be dissipated,” he said. “The dish itself does not require cooling; it’s the sensitive cells that need to be protected from excessive heat. The cells are positioned within the highly magnified and concentrated light source, that being the dish.”
The result is a 12-foot dish that can provide up to 40 percent of the electricity a home uses as well as hot water for a home. And it takes up about a third of the space that regular PV arrays do, according to the company.
The units are not yet available. But when they’re released they’re expected to start at about $5,000.
“With the most recent breakthrough, we are moving along very nicely. There is no firm date for release at this time but expect to announce very soon,” Ralston said.
Until Skypower Solutions introduces the technology to market, it is testing the device at its Mooresville, N.C., research and development facility.