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Tubular Solar System by Solyndra

We are always looking forward to ever advancing clean energy generating techniques. These tubular Solyndra solar tubes provide a great alternative to the common solar panels. Each Solyndra tube resembles a skinny glass tube that looks like a fluorescent light bulb painted black. The tube contains 150 solar cells, wrapped around the inside of the glass. Designed and built by Fremont startup Solyndra, the tube can absorb light from any direction and convert it to electricity. Placed in a rooftop rack, the tube can even collect light bouncing off the roof.

In the U.S. alone, approximately 30 billion square feet of commercial rooftop surface is available for PV systems and could be utilized to create in excess of 150 gigawatts of electricity. Globally, this number could be two to three times higher. Tapping even a small fraction of this potential would make a significant impact on the world’s energy needs.

Solyndra designs, manufactures and sells solar photovoltaic (PV) systems comprised of panels and mounting hardware for large, low-slope commercial rooftops. The Solyndra system is designed to optimize PV performance on commercial rooftops by converting more of the sunlight that strikes the total rooftop area into electricity.

Solyndra's tubes, made at the company's Fremont factory, don't need to be tilted to face the sun the way traditional solar cells do. They work just as well lying flat, making them ideal for the wide-open roofs of office buildings, warehouses and big-box retail stores. And because Solyndra's racks leave an inch of space between each tube, they don't catch the wind very easily and don't need to be bolted to the roof, cutting installation time and cost.

Solyndra Chief Executive Officer Chris Gronet said he got the idea after noticing just how much room traditional solar panels squander. Rows of standard solar panels perched on a flat roof have to sit several feet apart so they don't cast shadows on each other. Lay solar cylinders flat, however, and you can blanket the entire roof.

Each of the company's cylinders is actually two glass tubes, one nested inside the other. Rather than silicon, the solar cells use a mixture of copper, indium, gallium and selenium deposited on the inner tube. The outer tube concentrates sunlight and protects the solar cells.

Solyndra's highly automated factory assembles the tubes and mounts them in panels, each containing 40 tubes. The panels are placed on racks that keep the tubes a few inches above the roof. The racks aren't bolted to the roof and can be quickly deployed or removed.

Solyndra's panels employ cylindrical modules which capture sunlight across a 360-degree photovoltaic surface capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. Solyndra's panels perform optimally when mounted horizontally and packed closely together, thereby covering significantly more of the typically available roof area and producing more electricity per rooftop on an annual basis than a conventional panel installation. The result is significantly more solar electricity per rooftop per year.

The Solyndra system is lightweight and the panels allow wind to blow through them. These factors enable the installation of PV on a broader range of rooftops without anchoring or ballast, which are inherently problematic. The horizontal mounting and unique “air-flow” properties of Solyndra's solar panel design substantially simplify the installation process for Solyndra's PV systems. The ease of installation and simpler mounting hardware of the Solyndra system enables its customers to realize significant savings on installation costs.

Using proprietary cylindrical CIGS modules and thin-film technology, Solyndra systems are designed to provide the lowest installation cost per system and the highest annual solar electrical energy output for typical low slope commercial rooftops.

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.

Wind naturally flows through the gaps between the modules in Solyndra's panel, greatly simplifying mounting requirements. Even in areas with high winds, there is no need for roof-penetrating mounts or ballast to hold Solyndra panels in place. Solyndra's panels have been tested and are certified for use in winds of up to 208km/h (130mph). Further, having a distributed rooftop load of 16kg/m2 (3.3lbs/ft2), Solyndra's self-ballasting systems can be used on buildings that would otherwise require structural reinforcement to harvest solar power. Additionally, Solyndra panels impart negligible resultant upward or downward wind loads on a roof structure.