Concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) often means acres and acres in the desert. But soon it could be on rooftops in Maryland.
Former NASA engineers have formed a company — Soliant Energy — that aims to use small, sun-tracking Fresnel lenses to boost the output of rooftop-mounted PV systems. We have vast amounts of unused rooftops, from “bigbox” stores and warehouses to office buildings to parking garages — that could all be producing electricity.
Soliant’s testing shows that their system can achieve “20-30% more kilowatt-hours per system compared to stationary, nontracking installations.” While this gain is typical of CPV, Soliant will turn out small modules that don’t require a lot of space.
Soliant has also gotten a vote of confidence in the form of venture capital from GE.
Innovators like Soliant illustrate the trend of electricity production: clean, distributed and small scale. The critical factor is innovation in manufacturing that makes each unit cheaper and easier to install.