A rooftop at Santa Clara University is now home to a next-generation solar technology. Specifically the university has commissioned a solar concentrating photovoltaic project — which uses both mirrors to concentrate sunlight and also solar cells — from startup Chromasun. Chromasun unveiled its solar collector design back in October 2009, and the technology is a 4-by-10-foot collector, intended for commercial roofs.
Chromasun’s collector includes strips of shiny aluminum, made by Alanod Solar, that look like window blinds and use sensors to automatically track the sun. These strips concentrate light 25 times and reflect it upon two pipes to generate temperatures of up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit.
Companies like Chromasun say that concentrating rooftop solar power systems will cut costs compared to conventional photovoltaic solar panels and also take up less room, so that they can generate higher electricity savings in confined spaces. Chromasun’s panels could be 20-50 percent cheaper than PV systems’ prices, the company told us back in 2009. Other startups also are working to bring concentrating solar thermal to commercial roofs, including HelioDynamics and Sopogy.
For Chromasun’s 60-collector Santa Clara University installation, the collectors will heat water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for use and generate around 6,700 therms of energy, reducing the building’s water-heating bill by up to 70 percent. Here’s photos of the Santa Clara University installation: