New angle on solar has Arizona senator's attention - Tucson News Now

New angle on solar has Arizona senator's attention

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By J.D. Wallace - bio | email

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) – Turning the free energy from the sun into cheap electricity takes more than just reflection; it takes action.

"It's cheaper because the business end, the cell that actually does the converting, is much smaller," said Dr. Roger Angel, a professor in the University of Arizona Department of Astronomy.

He said that, unlike a standard solar panel, the method that they are developing uses a curved mirror to reflect all the sunlight of a large area into a much smaller one.

"In the whole game of trying to get the cost down to where you don't need a subsidy, we're trying to make the concentrating glass inexpensive and make the cell at the focus inexpensive," Angel said.

"The alternative energies of wind and solar primarily take huge government subsidies to make them economically viable.  What they're doing here at the U of A is developing a technique for solar energy production that will be economically competitive and won't have to rely on the subsidies," said Sen. Jon Kyl, (R) Arizona.

He said that not only is the method considered environmentally friendly, but its lower cost means that the electricity it produces is also cheaper.

"The activity that we're talking about here has a certain commercial value to it and therefore it does not have to rely upon federal funding in order for it to be accomplished," Kyl said.

"There's not enough money to subsidize photovoltaic or solar electricity enough to do a lot of good, so we just have to figure out how to do it cheaper," Angel said.

The U of A does receive research grants. But Kyl said that those are not the same as the subsidies provided for solar panel and wind turbine development.

Angel said that the models they have tested so far produced 500 watts from
PV cells covering in total the area of 4 small postage stamps, or 3 square inches. In contrast, you would need 25 square feet of high quality rooftop solar panels (1,200 times
the area) to get the same amount of power.

He expects them to test a much larger version, one that provides the same electricity as a roof full of solar panels to power a house, in the next few months.

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