Thursday, October 29, 2009

Solar Power International 2009: A Quick Review

Lots of exhibitors--not much new

Solar Power International 2009 in Anaheim, California this week had much of the same energy--pun intended--of last year's trade show in San Diego. There seemed to be more exhibitors as the solar industry is one of the very few growth sectors in the world's economy.

Still, like last year's trade show, there seemed very little that was new.

Ascent Solar (ASTI), of Littleton, Colorado has brought its copper, indium, gallium, selenide (CIGS) thin-film solar cells to market recently and they look much like UniSolar's thin-film laminates. Both are lightweight and flexible (pictured) but the main differences are that Ascent's PV uses a plastic substrate whereas UniSolar uses a thin layer of stainless steel on which its amorphous silicon (a-Si) is deposited. Also, Ascent is claiming 10-12% efficiency of its cells as opposed to UniSolar's 7-8%. On Monday, Ascent announced NREL measured 14.01% cell efficiency for Ascent Solar CIGS material. As a result Ascent is planning to add 1% per year to its manufactured PV for worldwide sales. Obviously, this puts thin-film efficiency in parity with most standard crystalline but at significantly less cost per watt. Ascent's PV will be ideal for single-membrane (TPO) roofing solutions.

Ground array foundation posts are a lot simpler to install with Saber Solar Foundations. Saber's posts (available for various weight loads) simply screw into the ground like an auger and don't require cement for holding. The rep at at Saber's booth said this type of foundation meets most municipal building codes. Saber is located in Corona Del Mar, California and offers its drill-posts nationwide:

One company offered an automatic panel cleaning solution for areas with limited rainfall (which normally "self-clean" panels). A thin spray of water and mild detergent is applied for three minutes daily to clear panels of natural soiling. Water can be recycled by placing rain gutters on the lower edge of an array. Unfortunately, in the Southwest where such an application is most needed is also experiencing a long-term drought and water is getting precious. So, for large arrays this solution could be cost prohibitive.

More solar tracking manufacturers were exhibiting than last year as production-based incentives are becoming more prevalent worldwide.

Always held in California, Solar Power International 2010 will be at the Los Angeles Convention Center, October 12-14.


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