Rooftop Solar With A Twist — And Turn!

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.


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