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Energy Innovations readies solar concentrator for this year

Solar start-up Energy Innovations expects to release a solar concentrator for the commercial market this year, according to a company representative.

The company, which was spun out from technology incubator Idealab, is developing systems specifically for flat roofs typically seen in office parks and large retail outlets. Its subsidiary EI Solutions, is installing a 1.6 megawatt system at Google's corporate headquarters.

The idea behind solar concentrators is to amplify sunlight projected onto photovoltaic material to get more power from it and lower the overall system cost.

The first production system from Energy Innovations will use a lens to intensify the light, sort of like a magnifying glass can burn an insect on the ground on a sunny day.

The company has been testing various designs over the past few years but is now starting product safety testing for a commercially available product, said Steve Chadima, executive vice president of external affairs at the company.

Developing systems specifically for flat roofs poses its particular design challenges, he added.

Because building owners typically do not want outsiders to drill holes in the roof, Energy Innovations is designing its concentrators to be "self ballasting" and able to withstand 100 mile per hour winds.

In addition, the company has to test against hail. That means shooting 1 inch balls at 65 mph at its concentrators and not degrading its performance.