asphalt shingle and has 14 high-efficiency polycrystalline
silicon solar cells that absorb sunlight and convert it into
electricity. Its lightweight design does not require structural
10.Daylighting. Another way manufacturers have en- tered the solar energy industry is with high-perfor-mance prismatic daylighting products that use sunlight and
advanced optics to directly illuminate a space. Orion Energy
Systems, Manitowoc, Wis., produces a solar light pipe, which
captures sunlight through its
dome, directs it through
the sealed spun aluminum
pipe, and magnifies it via
advanced optics to produce focused sunlight
into a commercial, industrial, or warehouse
facility. The product is designed to be a one-for-one
daytime replacement of a typical electrical lighting fixture when
used with the company’s intelligent control system and ambient light sensors.
Two other North American manufacturers making solar
daylighting products are Solatube, Vista, Calif., and Sunoptics, Sacramento, Calif.
Photo courtesy of Orion Energy Systems,
11.Solar Thermal Energy. Solar PV’s sunny cousin uses the sun’s heat for thermal energy. One type of
solar thermal system starts with a solar collection panel that
heats water. Another type of solar thermal collector concentrates sunlight using mirrors or lenses to produce electricity.
An interesting application for concentrated solar thermal
is its use to heat materials other than water. Last year San
Luis Obispo, Calif.-based LightManufacturing LLC introduced
concentrated solar thermal technology to mold plastic.
The company’s U.S. and global patent-pending process
uses concentrated solar thermal energy to replace fossil fuel
heat sources in rotational molding. Rotational molding is a
process for making large, hollow plastic products, such as
children’s toys, kayaks, and fuel tanks.
A bank of computer-controlled mirrors reflect sunlight
onto a rotating hollow mold, which heats to several hundred
degrees in seconds and melts the plastic inside. The mirrors
adjust their positions as the sun moves across the sky, moving from mold to mold.
“Free, available sunlight and low-cost hardware packages
replace the large, expensive hardware components used in
traditional rotational molding,” said Karl von Kries, president
The company says its system “promises to transform rotational molding from a smokestack industry that emits over
3. 6 billion lbs. of greenhouse gases a year into a sustainability
model citizen—and one with unusual economic advantages.”
The best part—its process costs less to operate and purchase than the traditional approach, according to LightManufacturing.
12.Solar Carport Charging Stations. These charging stations help answer the question, Where will the
electricity come from to charge electric vehicles?
Envision Solar, San Diego, manufactures solar-powered
EV charging stations. Although
the carports do not provide a
real-time charging of the vehicles, they feed an equivalent
amount of electricity the EVs
use into the power grid, netting
a zero consumption for the EVs,
according to Robert Noble, CEO
of Envision Solar. The technology enables EV owners to use
clean solar power to recharge
their vehicles’ batteries without
relying on carbon fuel-generated
GE Energy Industrial Solutions partnered with Inovateus
GE’s wall-mountable EV charger delivers a full-cycle charge
to a 24-k Wh battery in four to eight hours.
Photo courtesy of Envision
Solar, San Diego.