SolFocus Receives $25 Million in Funding
SolFocus, which recently teamed up with Xerox PARC (details), has now received 25 million dollars in venture capital funding to manufacture it's innovative solar panels. SolFocus' panels are much more compact, and use much less silicon than regular panels because they use lenses and mirrors to concentrate sunlight. The concentrators magnify sunlight 500 times, which according to the company, is the "sweet spot" between higher energy production and excessive heat. A second-generation design squeezes the process into a single glass block (seen here). The blocks have two sets of mirrors: mirrors on bottom face reflect sunlight back to mirrors on the top face, and these in turn reflect the light on to one-millimeter-square photovoltaic cells popped into the center of the bottom mirrors.
Silicon-based solar panels today cost close to $3 per watt to produce, SolFocus will manufacture solar systems at $2 per watt when it opens its first concentrator plant next year. Larger scale production (in the area of gigawatts) will cut the cost per watt to just 50 cents. The second generation should cut costs further, says Conley, to as low as 32 cents per watt.
The products are aimed at the commercial market, such as retail stores or office parks. SolFocus also intends to build large-scale power generation, where a field of panels could generate several hundred megawatts of power, Conley said. The company intends to have a 100-megawatt manufacturing facility in India operating at the end of next year, he said. SolFocus then intends to replicate that plant in China, Europe and somewhere in the Americas.