June 3, 2011

New Solar Panels Follow The Sun For Increased Efficiency

A new Japanese solar power device features mirrors that track the sun allowing for twice the electricity of current models, according to its developers.

Smart Solar International, a Tokyo start-up with offices in California, is hoping its system will be adopted in tsunami-hit areas along the northern Pacific coast, reports the AFP news agency.

The unnamed device features a row of aluminum mirror bars that can slowly rotate as the sun moves across the sky. The reflected light shines into a central tube that is packed with high-performance, multi-layered solar cells.

Its inventors say the system requires far less silicon, easily the most expensive component of any solar cell, than the conventional larger flat photovoltaic cell panels. The tube prevents overheating, which can reduce the efficiency of power generation, with excess heat used as a water heater.

"You can get both electricity and heat from the same device," Takashi Tomita, a former Sharp Corp. executive who heads the spin-off from the University of Tokyo's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, told AFP.

Since the devastating earthquake in Japan which crippled a nuclear power plant earlier this year, there is a renewed interest in solar and other alternative energy sources from the Japanese government.

"We must send our product to the (disaster) regions first," said Tomita, also a professor at the University of Tokyo's research center. "I want to ship this as early as possible to convenience stores and to other facilities where people congregate."

In coming years, Tomita hopes to sell the system abroad. "Southeast Asia needs a source of energy as demand keeps growing," Tomita said, pointing out that countries including Vietnam and Thailand do not have much oil and gas, unlike Indonesia or Brunei.

The company also aims for sales in India and the Middle East. Next week Smart Solar plans to exhibit a parabolic mirror version of the system at the Intersolar trade fair in Munich, Germany.


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