Solar start-up Heliovolt, a company that envisions buildings coated with electricity-generating roofs and sidings, will begin building prototypes later this month.
Most solar photovoltaic cells are made of silicon, but a shortage of silicon, coupled with the maturity of the traditional solar industry, has made it hard to lower the price of solar panels, according to experts.
Companies such as Heliovolt specialize in copper indium gallium selenium, or CIGS, solar technology, which proponents say can be as durable and efficient as silicon cells but can be manufactured for less money.
Austin, Texas-based Heliovolt will start building prototypes at its plant this month and start production of products this fall, said Billy J. Stanbery, president and CEO of Heliovolt.
Stanbery said Heliovolt considers its thin-film solar coating a “platform technology” that can be used in a range of applications, including replacements for silicon in solar panels.
In addition, he said that the company intends to make “building-integrated photovoltaics” where the CIGS solar films are added onto building materials.
“By putting those coatings directly on building material, you significantly reduce the marginal cost of making the solar power and you put it directly where you use it,” Stanbery said.
He said the thin-film CIGS manufacturing technology is cheaper than using silicon to build energy-harvesting “power buildings.”
“Power buildings are the future. We need to build a bridge to that future, and we’re interested in any appropriate and profitable means of ramping up production and getting into that market,” Stanbery said.
By Martin LaMonica
Staff Writer, CNET News.com