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California Company Unveils Innovative Rooftop Solar Panels

In a state that already leads the U.S. in solar electricity, a company has developed a unique solar system it touts for large commercial rooftops. The northern California is already marketing the system, which it unveiled 7 October, to companies around the world. VOA's Paul Sisco has this Searching for Solutions report.

In California, the governor has set an ambitious goal for renewable energy, and an industry organization says the state is the top producer of solar electricity in the country.

Now a northern California company, Solyndra, is introducing a new solar panel designed for vast commercial rooftops. The collectors are quite different than tradition flat panels.

"We've made use of a cylindrical shape to collect light from all three dimensions both direct, scattered or diffused light, and light that bounces off of the roof," Marketing Vice President Kelly Truman said. "We also collect on the backside with this cylindrical module."

At the high tech California facility, with 500 employees and a collection of robots, Solyndra developed the rooftop system quietly and unveiled it on 7 October 2008.

Each glass tube is laser-cut, with 150 solar cells using a reflective semi-conductive material. Forty tubes are then mounted into each panel. Unlike other systems, these are mounted onto simple roof top racks, reducing installation costs and time. The company announced it has orders for over a billion dollars worth of panels over the next five years.

"We are helping the planet against global warming while at the same time helping our customers save money on their electric bill," Truman said.

The company's largest installation to date is on its own roof but Truman says Solyndra already has plans to build a second, larger plant next year.