The idea is such a simple one: rotate solar panels to follow the sun throughout the day so they capture the most of the sun's energy as possible. Solar power tracking systems have been around for some time, but a 19-year-old claims to have done existing systems one better. Eden Full is the lady behind the SunSaluter, a technology that can optimize energy collection by up to 40 percent—for a total cost of $10 per installation.Full said that the device can reduce the payback period for solar panels by five years. To drive home the technology's potential, she said if the SunSaluter were installed on 15 percent of today's panels by 2030, it would improve efficiency so much that it'd be like the electricity for a city the size of Philadelphia being carbon neutral.
I saw Full present the SunSaluter at the Mashable Social Good Summit last week, where she won the $10,000 prize at the summit's Startups For Good challenge. Her presentation to the panel of judges was so impressive that one of the judges said, "if you're 19 years old, I have hope for the future."
Full was a Princeton student who took a break after her sophomore year to pursue her efforts on the SunSaluter technology—with support both from Princeton and from PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, who has been paying promising young people like her to not go to college.
She has tested the technology with two prototypes in Kenya, where two villages with 1,000 citizens are benefiting from the device.
It works passively, requiring no electricity: the mechanism is made of bamboo and metal coils that expand and contract automatically with the sun. And it needs maintenance less than existing systems, about once a year.
At the summit, she said she thinks the world can be more ambitious about its clean energy goals for the next few decades than it currently is. The SunSaluter is suited to both small- and large-scale use, and can either lower current costs of solar power or increase output for the same cost.
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