Solar cone power art
September 30, 2012 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Solar art. V3Solar has a spinning blue crystal prototype that has many advantages over flat-panels. Some details on costs. Via GizMag.
posted by stbalbach (32 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Like putting too much air into a balloon!
posted by boo_radley at 9:16 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd love a little spherical automaton made of this stuff, whose only program is to roll until it finds a shadow.
posted by cromagnon at 9:34 PM on September 30, 2012


The Green Flash. Really. They went with that? The quintessential Fortean phenomenon?

Assuming the green flash is a real phenomenon (the laser-beam green flash, not to be confused with the mirage-refraction green flash, which might also be illusory, or a result of air pollution and in any event not related to solar cell efficiency at all), they'd have one sweet academic paper explaining how it works. Instead, they have an investment opportunity that involves a spinning pyramid. A spinning crystal pyramid.

The hokum ooozes from this one...
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:35 PM on September 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


spinning pyramid power for the 21st century
posted by Ansible at 9:36 PM on September 30, 2012


It spins so as to hypnotize the investor while they run away with a briefcase full of money.
posted by deo rei at 9:47 PM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


So someone explain how the power used to spin this thing is made up by...spinning? Seems the 2nd law of thermodynamics is applicable here, but I'm no engineer.
posted by zardoz at 9:49 PM on September 30, 2012


while they run away with a briefcase full of money

Is that a Kickstarter campaign I smell?
posted by R. Schlock at 9:53 PM on September 30, 2012


zardoz: "So someone explain how the power used to spin this thing is made up by...spinning? Seems the 2nd law of thermodynamics is applicable here, but I'm no engineer."

Presumably the same way that sun tracking flat panels generate enough extra energy to more than make up for the energy involved in constantly moving the panels. It's not entirely implausible that the cooling due to each cell rotating into the shade for a while could make up for the energy used to spin the assembly.

That said, I don't see how a motor-generator set is supposed to be more efficient than an inverter.
posted by wierdo at 10:02 PM on September 30, 2012


It spins on magnets.
posted by stbalbach at 10:17 PM on September 30, 2012


It spins on magnets.

Quick, someone alert the Juggalos!
posted by mrbill at 10:26 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It spins on magnets.

Yeah but, how the f*(& do they work?
posted by lumpenprole at 10:26 PM on September 30, 2012


This is completely ridiculous. First of all, I'm not even really sure their thing about solar panels 'filling up' and having a cooldown option is even remotely true.

They say the spinning will cool down the panels, but then they say the system is sealed - which would negate any cooling effect.

The green flash thing is almost certainly B.S.

Finally, how cheap could the spinning mechanism possibly be? PV solar panels are now incredibly cheap. So much so that the cost of the panels themselves are only a small part of of the overall cost of an install.

So even if this thing were twice as efficient per area of solar cell, how could the whole thing, motor, sealed compartment, special lenses, etc possibly be cheaper then just adding another panel?
posted by delmoi at 11:22 PM on September 30, 2012


So someone explain how the power used to spin this thing is made up by...spinning? Seems the 2nd law of thermodynamics is applicable here, but I'm no engineer.
light mill. Although if they ever built this thing, it would probably just have a motor in it, powered by... solar energy.
posted by delmoi at 11:24 PM on September 30, 2012


One way or another there has to be a way to get the power from the panels down into the real world. If it's "spinning on magnets" then there's still some sort of rotation physical junction for conductors to carry power. And that thing is going to eventually wear out. Before I'd take this design even remotely seriously, I'd want to see a decent MTBF calculation on it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:44 PM on September 30, 2012


How many Segways can I charge up with one of these babies?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:00 AM on October 1, 2012


Chocolate Pickle: "One way or another there has to be a way to get the power from the panels down into the real world. If it's "spinning on magnets" then there's still some sort of rotation physical junction for conductors to carry power. And that thing is going to eventually wear out. Before I'd take this design even remotely seriously, I'd want to see a decent MTBF calculation on it."

It's a generator; the power is conducted with EM fields in free space between the windings of the rotor and stator. The rotor and panel assembly may be claimed to be levitated magnetically. It all seems possible, my main question is whether the efficiency claimed is real or not.
posted by wierdo at 12:03 AM on October 1, 2012


If this were true, then cylindrical satellites that spin stabilize with conformal arrays would have seen the effect decades ago, which to my knowledge, haven't.
posted by nickggully at 2:27 AM on October 1, 2012


...the mirage-refraction green flash, which might also be illusory, or a result of air pollution...

I'm having trouble believing that a phenomenon that has been photographed is an illusion.
posted by DU at 4:13 AM on October 1, 2012


Also, the 2nd law does not apply to spinning leading to an increase in power.

There needs to be a word for people who don't know science trying to debunk a claim. Double-bunking?
posted by DU at 4:15 AM on October 1, 2012


Oh ffs no. Just no.
posted by scruss at 4:29 AM on October 1, 2012


"Like a spinning disco ball, we make the photons dance." Now that's copy writing.
posted by Dean358 at 5:40 AM on October 1, 2012


Watching these crystal-blue cones spinning, I couldn't take it seriously because I was shouting in my head "WE MUST CONSTRUCT ADDITIONAL PYLONS".
posted by cyberscythe at 6:00 AM on October 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


There needs to be a word for people who don't know science trying to debunk a claim. Double-bunking?
Miscorrection?
posted by crazy_yeti at 6:10 AM on October 1, 2012


Was hoping for a radiometer that had been somehow scaled up for massive power generation; was disappointed.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:25 AM on October 1, 2012


I envision scaling these down to about 1" in diameter and then using them to cover the exterior of an electric car.

I would drive that.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:17 AM on October 1, 2012


I would drive that.

But not far.
posted by deo rei at 7:32 AM on October 1, 2012


Well, it looks cool, and I appreciate the artist's commentary on the implications of quackpot research in the fields of...oh wait, this is supposed to be like...a real thing?

It uses pairs of electromagnets to convert the dc output from PV cells into AC? It generates AC that magically syncs itself to the frequency of the power grid without an inverter? That part alone I would like an explanation of because I'm not aware of a method to do that. The complete lack of measurements is also a nice touch. This thing looks cool, and for that reason I would it to function as well as it's claimed to, but from what I can see it looks like bullshit.

Then there's these phrases, which are about as convincing as "wonder cure-all tonic".

Additionally, by providing the existing supply chain with a new source of revenue, market acceptance will be rapid and enthusiastic. [...] By factoring in tracking, inverters, power density, location and dynamic flash rate, V3solar is expecting to provide the lowest Total Cost of Ownership and a significant market opportunity with the most efficient energy production under the sun.
posted by nTeleKy at 7:41 AM on October 1, 2012


If this were true, then cylindrical satellites that spin stabilize with conformal arrays would have seen the effect decades ago, which to my knowledge, haven't.
posted by nickggully at 2:27 AM on October 1 [+] [!]

Without making a comment on the viability of the technology in the article, your statement is not the same thing. There is no convective cooling in space, so the shaded solar cells would not lose much more heat than the ones in the sunlight: all the heat is sinked through a radiator.

Now, to comment on the technology in the article: PV panels do lose efficiency when they get hot, so a self cooling panel could see some gains. The TCO argument is a good one as well, and could be expressed as the difference between "$1/watt, panel lasts 10 years" and "$1/watt, panel lasts 60 years".

But I hope their investor material is better than their website, because that website sucks.
posted by BeeDo at 11:44 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's focus on their numbers: 38 cents per KWh for flat panel vs. shiny blue pyramid cost of 17 cents. Looks good!

Except that flat panel, e.g. crystalline silicon on a single-axis horizontal tracker, is under 10 cents per KWh. The panels alone cost--and this price is three months old--roughly 65 cents per watt (DC) for 2013 delivery vs. the $1.15 per watt for the blue pyramid...

Approaching this another way, the average cost per KWh in the U.S. is about 11 cents per KWh vs. 18 cents for the pyramid. Solar PV (crystalline silicon) recently cleared the market in a City of Palo Alto Utilities RFP for 7 cents per KWh for 20 years (granted, the plant is located in an area with a strong solar resource).

In summation, they are unlikely to compete in the current U.S. market place.

I have no doubt that these guys will line up some Sand Hill Rd. money because, well, many of those firms seem (to us folks in the trenches) pretty gullible.
posted by jchilib at 1:10 PM on October 1, 2012


BeeDo: But there is plenty of radiant cooling available, so the effect would have been seen nonetheless.
posted by nickggully at 1:14 PM on October 1, 2012


There's no Sand Hill Rd money left for solar. Just the word is poison to a deal now. Miasole just sold to the Chinese for $30M, after VC's put in upwards of $500M. So even the very best ideas won't get funded.

Stupidity like spinning solar cones has no hope.
posted by Long Way To Go at 4:59 PM on October 1, 2012



Let's focus on their numbers: 38 cents per KWh for flat panel vs. shiny blue pyramid cost of 17 cents. Looks good!

Except that flat panel, e.g. crystalline silicon on a single-axis horizontal tracker, is under 10 cents per KWh. The panels alone cost--and this price is three months old--roughly 65 cents per watt (DC) for 2013 delivery vs. the $1.15 per watt for the blue pyramid...
Be careful, you're mixing power and energy. Power companies charge for energy, but solar panels produce power. Power is energy over time.

Things get a little confusing because rather then using the SI unit of joules (pronounced 'jewels') to measure energy, they measure it in kilowatt hours. That's power times time. Since power is energy over time you end up with a unit that's defined as (Power/time)*time. Which gets you back to power.

A 1 killowatt solar instal will generate one thousand joules of energy per second when the sun is at maximum brightness. If you run it for one hour, it will generate one killowatt hour of energy.

If you run it all day, you will generate maybe 4-6 killowatt hours on average. And that's because the sun doesn't shine at the same angle all day - so rather then generating 24 killowatt hours per day, you multiply by insolation which varies depending on where you are, what month it is, whether you have a sun tracker, etc, etc.

Anyway. the thing is, when you buy a panel, you pay per watt. So the number of killowatt hours you end up getting in the end depends on how many days you have it installed. The ultimate marginal cost per killowatt hour is nearly zero. The cost is just the cost of cleaning the panels and replacing any that break over the years. But the up front cost is higher then coal or natural gas. It takes a few years for the overall energy cost for a solar panel to be better then coal/natural gas.
posted by delmoi at 6:33 PM on October 1, 2012


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