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Solar energy is probably one of the most commonly used renewable energy technologies in the world, and has huge potential to lead our efforts to leave the dark, smoky era of fossil fuels behind us. Unfortunately, as with all renewable energies, it is still young and cannot yet compete with existing sources of energy such as coal, nuclear, and natural gas in terms of price.
A new solar technology has recently been announced which claims to produce electricity at a levelised cost of energy (LCOE) of just 8¢/kWh. That is 66% cheaper than normal retail electricity and a massive 300% cheaper than any current solar technologies. It really could slash the price of solar energy and revolutionise the whole sector, as well as the battle against fossil fuels.
The company that has developed the technology is called V3Solar, and its product, the Spin Cell, can produce such cheap electricity by solving two of the greatest cost areas of traditional PV cells.
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PV solar panels are flat, which means that without the use of an expensive, additional tracking system they only receive direct sunlight once a day for a very brief period of time. This vastly reduces the potential efficiency of the panel. The Spin Cell avoids this problem by having its solar cells in a conical shape, meaning that no matter what time of day it is, the sun will be directly shining upon the surface of the cells.
Solar cell efficiency can also be increased by focussing the sun’s rays onto the PV cells via use of a lens, however this also magnifies the heat of the rays, and requires the solar panels to be made out of expensive, specialised, heat resistant materials. Again the Spin Cell ingeniously solves this problem by spinning the array so that the passing wind can cool the cells down.
Some people doubt the functionality of this technology, and to be fair a lot can go wrong between the prototype and public release, but on paper the ideas sound simple enough to hold merit.
By. Joao Peixe
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com