Solar tech revolutionizing sunlight-to-electricity


The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a $1.5 million grant to REhnu to advance concentrated photovoltaics. REhnu is a spin-off company founded by University of Arizona optics professor Roger Angel, Director of the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory and UA professor.

The goal of REhnu, in conjunction with the University of Arizona, is to develop a solar energy technology that would be cost-competitive with fossil-fuel generation without requiring subsidies. The solar power technology being developed could revolutionize the way sunlight is converted into electrical power. 

The concept applies expertise from the mirror lab's history of making the world's largest telescope mirrors to the fabrication of cheap but effective dishes capable of harvesting sunlight more effectively than any other existing technology. The solar mirrors focus sunlight onto a 5-inch glass ball, then to a small array of 36 highly efficient photovoltaic cells originally developed to power spacecraft. The cells convert a broader range of the solar spectrum into electricity, when compared to regular cells, to make twice as much electrical power. The ball lens is coated to maximize transparency for the incoming rays. In order to keep investment costs down, unlike other CPV technology companies, the approach takes advantage of existing manufacturing and supply lines. 

The prototype is showing great promise for producing electricity at costs competitive with fossil fuels, according to Peter Strittmatter, Regents' Professor at the University of Arizona Department of Astronomy and REhnu secretary.

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