A New Shape For Solar Power? Modular Rooftop Thin-Film Solar PV Panels Could Revolutionize Market (UPDATED)

Building on couple of topics which are perennial TreeHugger favorites (cool roofs and thin-film solar photovoltaics)... Fremont, California-based Solyndra has announced the launch of a new type of rooftop solar array which the company says could revolutionize the market for commercial rooftop solar arrays. This is what it’s all about:Thin-Film Coated Tubes Gather Light From All Sides
What Solyndra has done is develop a thin-film solar PV module consisting of cylindrical tubes that when placed on a rooftop, and assisted by a light colored roof, is capable of collecting solar energy from both sides of the module. The units are lightweight, flat-mounted on the roof, require no roof mounting hardware beyond the brackets which prop the units up from the roof surface, and are attached to one another by clipping the units together at the edges.

A commenter wondered about the efficiency of Solyndra's solar modules: Solyndra says that its solar cells can convert 12-14% of the sunlight hitting them into electricity.

More Rooftop Covered Than Traditional Systems
Solyndra touts the superior energy gathering abilities of their new system:

The Solyndra system’s ability to cover more roof and capture more light results in more annual solar electricity generation. Solyndra panels employ cylindrical modules which capture sunlight across a 360-degree photovoltaic surface capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. This self-tracking design allows Solyndra's PV systems to capture more sunlight than traditional flat-surfaced solar panels, which require costly tilted mounting devices to improve the capture of direct light, offer poor collection of diffuse light and fail to collect reflected light from rooftops or other installation surfaces.

Installation in One-Third the Time
Solyndra explains why:

Solyndra's system enables its customers to realize significant savings on installation costs. Because wind blows through Solyndra's panels and horizontal mounting is optimum, simple, non-penetrating mounting hardware is used in the Solyndra system. No roof penetrations, attachments or ballast are needed. Panels and mounts are quickly attached together, enabling installations to be done in one third of the time of conventional PV installations. After the installation is complete, these same attributes enable Solyndra systems to be easily moved for relocation or roof servicing.

Cost? Durability? Minimum Size?
A number of questions immediately popped up in my mind: How much do the units cost? What’s the minimum number of units which can be installed? Would this be suitable for lat-roofed apartment buildings for example? How much power does each unit produce? Durability? My brother’s metal roof in Texas got dented by hail; what would that do to one of these panels? And if some of the tubes get broken does the whole thing have to come apart (picturing one of the units in the middle of the array going down and having to disassemble the whole thing...)? I’m sure readers will have more...

According to Solyndra’s press release, the company currently has $1.2 billion worth of multi-year contracts with customers in Europe and the United States; and has already begun shipping the first of its units.

More (including a video showing the installation procedure) at :: Solyndra
all images: Solyndra
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