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Solar collector doubles as greenhouse shade

Solyndra's unique solar collector is being tested in by agricultural institutions to diffuse greenhouse light and produce power.


Solyndra has found a second use for its solar collector as a shade for greenhouses.

The company on Monday said that that its solar collectors, which are an array of solar cell-covered glass tubes, are being tested at agriculture research centers in Italy and the University of California, Davis.

A conventional flat solar panel would block essentially all light, but Solyndra's collectors allow for light to pass through the glass tubes, which are coated with thin-film solar cells. That provides a diffused light conducive to greenhouse plant growth and allows growers to use their available space for power production, the company said.

"We are pioneering this new agricultural solar solution in Italy, where extensive shaded agriculture operations combined with strong insolation and a favorable feed-in tariff are driving strong interest and demand," Clemens Jargon, the president of Solyndra in Europe, Middle East, and Africa, said in a statement.

Solyndra is one of several U.S.-based thin-film companies formed last decade to meet anticipated solar growth with cheaper solar technologies. Solyndra received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy and is said to have raised more than $1 billion in private capital.

These thin-film solar companies face stiff price competition from European and Chinese suppliers using traditional solar panel material. Solyndra last year had to cancel its plans for an initial public offering and closed down a more expensive production plant in reaction to falling global costs.