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Solar power

HelioVolt engineers new solar solutions with lower installation costs

Monday, February 05, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: solar power, green energy, renewable energy


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(NewsTarget) Solar technology company HelioVolt is working to reduce the cost of solar electric systems by developing new technology that is cheaper to install than conventional solar panels.

According to John Langdon, HelioVolt's vice president of marketing, approximately half the cost of a solar electric system is the price of the actual power-generating devices, while the rest goes to installation and the inverter.

"[Our new products] will reduce the cost of the inverter and the install," Langdon said.

An inverter converts the direct current that a solar panel generates from sunlight into the alternating current that is used by electric appliances.

It currently takes about 8 years for the free electricity from a solar electric system to repay that system's initial cost. Through a combination of cheaper production and installation expenses, the industry hopes to reduce that turnaround to four years.

HelioVolt's current focus is on copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells. Most solar panels are made from silicon-based cells, which are produced in a complex, resource-intensive process similar to that used to manufacture computer chips. CIGS cells, while not as efficient at turning light into electricity, are significantly easier to install, as they can be sprayed onto other substances such as polymer sheets or even incorporated into building materials like window coatings and cement. HelioVolt anticipates that these cells could drastically reduce the cost of solar electric systems.

To date, no company is mass-producing CIGS cells. According to Dave Edwards, an analyst at ThinkEquity Partners, solar technology company Miasole is expected to announce production by the end of the year. HelioVolt hopes to begin mass producing the cells by 2008.

For now, the only options for solar electric systems are conventional panels or solar roof tiles, also silicon-based. Roof tiles are generally more expensive both to purchase and install, but can be cheaper when incorporated into the construction of a new building.

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