Solar panels made three times cheaper and four times more efficient


March 14, 2010

The Concentrated Universal Energy Solar System (CUESS) to be commercialized by Technique Solar

The Concentrated Universal Energy Solar System (CUESS) to be commercialized by Technique Solar

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As regular readers will know, we cover more than our fair share of breakthroughs promising next-generation super-efficient solar cells. Everything from growing photovoltaic crystals, applying special coatings or using carbon nanotubes teases us with cheaper, more efficient solar energy - eventually. In this latest news, scientists are using current technology in a new type of concentrating array which they say is four times more efficient and three times cheaper than current solar cells.

The technology was originally developed at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and will be commercially produced by a spinoff company called Technique Solar. Each solar module consists of nine "troughs" that feature a concentrating acrylic lens and reflective walls to focus the sun’s rays onto a strip of photovoltaic (PV) cells, which enables the number of PV cells to be cut by 75 percent. The PV cells are used to generate electricity, while a heat exchanger located under them is used to generate heat for circulating water and storage tanks for a hot water system. Additionally, to maximize the sun’s rays the array has a motor drive mechanism with tracking sensor to follow the sun.

The company says its Concentrated Universal Energy Solar System (CUESS) makes it possible to deliver solar energy more economically and more efficiently than other current forms of solar energy generation. Each 3.5 square meter array apparently produces a total of around 2.1-kW of power, while a standard PV panel would need to be around 12-14 square meters to produce around the same amount. Technique Solar says its panels can supply heat load (hot water) and electrical energy at one quarter of the energy costs of conventional solar energy systems.

It must be highlighted however that these figures refer to total energy output – which combines both the electrical and heat power – not just electrical output, as is the case with standard solar cells. The standard CUESS panel produces 400 watts of electrical power and 1700 watts of heat power for a total of 2100 watts. It is this combination of heat and electrical energy output that allows the developers of the CUESS technology that allows them to claim a lifting of efficiency from around 18 percent for standard solar panels to over 50 percent.

Technique Solar has teamed with Magna Cosma, one of the world’s largest car component manufacturers boasting 242 manufacturing facilities spread over 25 countries. It will build 10 pre-production models in North America for testing and demonstrations at various sites around the world from June 2010 to obtain the final commercial accreditation and rating.

Technique Solar doesn’t plan to sell its system as an off the shelf purchase to consumers. Rather it intends the modules to be rolled out as infrastructure complementing existing energy supplies from the grid. The modules will be owned/leased by a Power Utility (or in some instances/countries by local councils, government or large corporations) who will then arrange for installation onto residential, commercial, industrial as well as school premises to complement or substitute existing energy supply.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Beats dying while standing knee deep in crude.

This was published 2010. It is now 2015, May. Still no sign of this tech.


Why is it that every time something huge comes along it is already tied to big utility interests? Why not have consumer level production? This becomes the old political back room deal that makes a few people a lot of money at the expense of the rest of the world. Guess what? Someone else will take it and modify it and make it even better and they will lose a huge selling opportunity and the ability to make a difference to the planet-but do they care?

Nick Gencarelle

Because the green movement isn\'t about helping humanity, it\'s about making billions at the expense of the human race.

They make their millions by inventing the technology then eventually it get sold on to another compamy then the previous company makes more money the new company makes it better then eventually they sell it to another company etc.

Maybe a few very rich billionares like bill gates and the rest can afford to by these \"CLEAN GREEN\" technologies along the way but people like us don\'t get anything.

Besides, i\'m not for man made global warming which snubs the human race.

Facebook User

there\'s more money to be made for less effort using government contracts, as there is a lot of corruption there. get big energy and the gov involved and there\'s a lot of money for not a lot of product. less customer service issues, etc etc. in the grand scheme of things, I think that if the product is financially feasible then market it to the world, let the govt get some if they want, and become rich and famous like bill gates. but, sometimes some people know some people and they can land some contracts that will be very lucrative and get special funding etc etc etc... we have to wait for more people minded inventors (like N.Tesla and B.Franklin) who were more interested in helping everyone. I have hope in the open source community in coming up with better stuff very soon. these are people who realize the patent system is currently stifling innovation and not really being \'fair\' in any real sense. don\'t believe it? how does it make sense that if 2 people develop something individually, the guy who gets to the patent office 10 minutes early blocks the other guy from using his creation? that completely contradicts their argument of \"we spent billions on development and need to make money to function\"... I think who ever gets there first gets 10% of the retail price of what ever it is for 10 years. that\'s it. but you shouldn\'t be able to stop people from making and selling something just becaue you came up with it first. that\'s just stifling.

MockingBird TheWizard

Why dont we look at the positve side of the improvement in efficiency the company claims to have acheived. Let the rich become more richer. But the world will eventually get down to more efficient way of producing energy. The technology will perculate down to the poor sooner or later.

Chettan Suresh

@Chettan Suresh what, are you insane?!? if that was the way it worked in the past then by the time incandescent light bulbs \"Percolated down to the poor\" the rich would have super efficient LED arrays which cover the ceiling to imitate sunlight and are powered by the breeze caused by a person walking past!

Nathan Stephanson

Isn\'t heat just vibrating material? Could we get some charged material vibrating in a pattern and grab the energy off that with some coils? We can make some pretty fantastically small circuits nowadays

Craig Jennings

Sounds interesting. But all these Solar Advanced Systems are very expensive. Developing countries need cost effective systems. So we wait till Chinese enter into these new systems to sell the products at a cheaper price.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh

Whoa, whoa, whoa! I\'m sensing some overreaction to the article here. Let\'s break down the last paragraph just a little:

\"Technique Solar doesn%u2019t plan to sell its system as an off the shelf purchase to consumers. Rather it intends the modules to be rolled out as infrastructure complementing existing energy supplies from the grid. The modules will be owned/leased by a Power Utility (or in some instances/countries by local councils, government or large corporations) who will then arrange for installation onto residential, commercial, industrial as well as school premises to complement or substitute existing energy supply.\"

In other words, Technique Solar is not a direct seller and they want to work through a typical leasing program provided by a Power Utility, Local Council, Government, or Large Corporation, a.k.a. a well financed leasing company such as a Solar City, Sun Run, Sungevity, etc. Many of the leasing programs will partner with local contractors who is turn provide the direct selling, which results in complementing or substituting \"existing energy supply\". In other words, there are opportunities for the day-to-day solar panel contractor/installer, small business and citizen to install Technique Solar panels. It\'s OK, really.

We might ask Gizmag to re-write portions of this article. There are portions of it that are confusing.

Collin Macfergus

Incorporating hot water and CPV will boost the total efficiency, but the electricity is more valuable. The linear concentrator will have fewer parts, but the concentrations will be lower. I think the CPV will end up dominating in areas with good DNI (Direct Normal Irradiance). Just in the last year here are some of the records we have seen: Most efficient solar cell by Solar Junction 43.5% Most efficient single junction concentrator 29.1% FhG-ISE The technology seems to favor the concentrator companies like Concentrix, Amonix and Sol Focus, but I am curious if the spectral splitting concentrators will become economically viable. I think the key will be making the system as simple as possible. I like the Rainbow Concentrator approach by Sol Solution.


the quicker we burn the oil that is left, the more expensive the rest of it becomes, the quicker solar energy technologies get developed and INDUSTRIALIZED (adopted) .

if we don\'t do this soon, ---burn as much oil as we can----it\'s possible the price of oil stays relatively stable for years. and this is not good for the prospects of solar energy.

so really, if you want to advance the adoption of solar, you can invest in burning oil as well as invest in solar energy. don\'t worry about coal. just burn as much oil as you can. as far as coal, well cheap coal will never change since coal is SO damn plentiful. what you can do is use the govenrment beauracracy to harras coal companies and make their cost of production higher. yea, a lot of environmentalists love to use government to make things \'better\'. but what has this gotten them? has government really helped usher in solar power? a little yea, but government is not the ultimate answer, free enterprise is. and remember any power you cede to your government in an effort to constrain coal will no doubt be used to constrain solar energy. ( they will fight fire with fire).

so the market solution is burn as much oil as you can, invest in solar, make the cost of electricity higher.

all these things will drive the demand for cheaper energy in favor of solar. nuclear energy, well, i feel like i could say plenty about that, but i wont.

Facebook User

What you missed is that collecting the heat is an important part of the efficiency and the cooling effect on the cells. Pay attention and improve this technology. We need to do everything we can right now or face our extinction in the near future. Oil is way to valuable to burn, we need it to make things with.

DanMar Dinsmore

Jeddy, while your premise is interesting, it really doesn\'t hold up. But, that being said, the cost of ANY energy stock rises and falls with competition. If oil shoots up to $20/gal., the price os solar, coal, LNG will all shoot up with it. It would spur greater efforts for development and deployment, the cost will be higher, simply because it\'s not what it costs, it\'s what it DOES. if it displaces $100,000 in fuel costs it will be priced accordingly. If it displaces $500,000 in fuel costs, again, it will be priced accordingly. Years ago, competition would cause a race to the bottom. Now the markets are framed in collusion, mitigating the benefits of competition.


I hope someone copies the design & sell\'s it the general public. Profiteering (on this scale) from green tech should not be allowed.

Anthony Collett

It\'s not \"the green movement\" that is all about money. It\'s invention itself. To get what you invent made and marketed costs a LOT of money. Who\'s going to provide that money? You? No. I know you think you can, but you can\'t. Money is almost never crowd-sourced successfully. I\'ve been trying to start a business for 3 years with no success. We need a lot of money, and while we have literally thousands of fans, even combined they can\'t come up with the money it would take to get going.

These guys need to turn the product into reality by any means necessary. While I\'m not at ALL a fan of the \"trickle down\" theory, in principle I agree with Chettan, at least to a degree. Once this technology is being mass-manufactured, no matter who by, it will become more acceptable and the price will drop as use goes up. I\'m not a fan of leasing it from electric companies by any means, but once it\'s out there, I don\'t think they\'d be able to maintain exclusive rights to it.

Dave Andrews

I like this. Everything in this is basically \'off the shelf\' so anyone can build it. No need to mass produce the whole unit as all the pieces are already mass produced.

Richard Otten

Depending on the temperature of the hot water produced, this may be able to be converted to electrical energy using a reverse RO cycle unit. Conversion of about 20% for low temperature (under 140C) and as high as 30% for higher temperatures with stepped delta\'s. Unit cost is about US $ 1.5 per MWe. So that means that this system could produce 740 to 900 W of electrical energy as opposed to 400W as stated above. Interesting application

Stephen Peters

I\'d like to think we can find an American manufacture that can upgrade this to be lighter/less heavy, more solid & productive in it integral construction, and make it as cheap as heck... But, with the Chinese still being able to employ their forced labor to work from 7am to 11pm for $12 dollars a day - the U.S. will again be knocked of the playing field. The way they have taken over this industry is still our governments biggest fault and now should be their challenge. Whatever is invented or created for decades now across the globe has been stolen and resold to the U.S. etc. by the Chinese and other countries that have slave labor. Why not have our legislators put a priority on all solar, wind, water, and green U.S.A. completely built products as a subsidies, better tariff\'s, higher net-metering amounts, and the list could go on for the American people? Oil, Coal, Pharma, and Agro get it - why not the end user/consumer. We will not ever change our economy towards a greener world with the plethora of legislative corruption that currently exists for Oil, Coal, Nuclear, etc. unless you all dump the current legislative supporters of the too big to fail corporations - bottom line. Most of them being heavily connected to the GOP (fact). You are will not be able to do anything with the red-fricken-tape that has been laid out by our own government to block green-tech from growing. It\'s not who you know it\'s who you elect and vote for...

Jim Young

Energy Info to possibly help and other - Residential energy use by type is roughly split between electricity and heat. Since the intro-conversion of any energy source is inherently inefficient and since the conversions /collection efficiency of heat from sunlight is nearly double that of the best commercially available PV, (greater if LCA is used), so solar combined heat and power systems are SIGNIFICANTLY more efficient on a $/overall energy load offset basis. That it has taken so long for these technologies become available is a reflection only of our (individual, government and the solar industry\'s) reluctance or inability to view and solve problems in their entirety. A side note - the single most efficient solar technology is solar hybrid lighting which uses sunlight as, you guessed it - light! The good news - as is often the case Gizmag only pretends to report breaking technology news and there are a few solar combined heat and power systems already available in the market place - google it and tell your local solar contractor to learn about and promote the best technologies available so it isn\'t only Big Energy that benefits from emerging technologies..


This is easy to copy and hard to protect. They could get a design patent that could easily be \"worked around\". I doubt if they could come up with a strong Utility Patent - I can\'t see anything that is not \"pre-existing\". Perhaps the marketing is driven by the fact that they need to \"own\" a large segment as fast as possible in order to stay on top of their fairly copyable design. Grab market share before the copies arrive.

I agree with one poster Anumakonda Jagadeesh, that said we have looked at their marketing wrong - he is correct in the following:

\"In other words, Technique Solar is not a direct seller and they want to work through a typical leasing program provided by a Power Utility, Local Council, Government, or Large Corporation, a.k.a. a well financed leasing company such as a Solar City, Sun Run, Sungevity, etc. Many of the leasing programs will partner with local contractors who is turn provide the direct selling, which results in complementing or substituting \"existing energy supply\". In other words, there are opportunities for the day-to-day solar panel contractor/installer, small business and citizen to install Technique Solar panels. It\'s OK, really. \"

Regarding the product, it would be certainly easy to make and by the way - their are several others already out there going both ways: PV/ST. At every show I have been to the booths for this type have been THE most crowded. They have also been the ones that appear to be taking the most orders. At two of the shows I could not talk to anyone because they were just that busy.

David Doyle

Guys, RMIT is a very well-recognised (harmless) university... I doubt that there would be any nefarious intentions, as some posters have claimed, in terms of keeping it out of people\'s hands...

I suspect that the commercialisation entity is simply looking to larger partners, just to get it to market... not to stop people being able to access it.

Some rich early-adopters of PV have large roof-spaces. But there are a whole lot of homes with quite small areas facing the sun (South in Northern Hemisphere, and North in Southern Hemisphere). Plus there are many multi-unit dwelling buildings, where roof space is at a premium. So, a combined electric generator plus solar hot water system does offer savings... in both space-used and cost. And if you live in a higher latitude, or have cool winters, there are significant benefits in solar tracking, but then overall size is critical, in terms of how large a device needs to be moved... so a combined system is useful.

But I agree that for residential use, it would be great to switch energy components - ie to have a few more PV cells to get 2/3rds as electricity, and only 1/3rd as hot water. For industrial sites (commercial laundry\'s etc), a higher fraction of energy as hot water may help. For residential use, it may be that old-style \'hot-water-driven wall radiators\' inside rooms during winter can deliver the space heating requirement. Better still, for new dwellings, is to lay one-inch irrigation plastic tubes in centre of concrete slab (preferably with joins at edge of slab, accessible for cleaning every decade) to heat-up the slab during day with hot water, letting that heat leak into dwelling well into the winter night. The poor-man\'s retrofit is to pour a 1cubic metre block of concrete inside a cupboard inside the house, with tubes inside, as the heat bank for collecting such heat during the day.

Personally, I think someone will come out with a low-cost \'kit\' to turn any roof panel into a solar-tracking unit. It only needs 3-4 extendable support posts. These could be driven by small electric motors on fine gearing teeth along side of support arms, or use a multi-stage hydraulic extendable piston (like many car-jacks). The control circuitry would be simple. As few as five micro PV cells would give the logic - one cell facing up in same direction as main panel and one immediately adjoining to each of N, S, E & W, with the surrounding cells mounted at 1-3 degrees slanted away from central one. That way, simple assessing of energy produced by each cell (averaged over minutes) would determine if array should be moved slightly, and in which direction. Graeme Harrison, Sydney Australia

Graeme Harrison

The government needs to step in and regulate the industry by demanding citizen level ownership of these cells. Big business needs to be given a punch in the nose and told to back off otherwise going "green" will never happen. Part of going "green", a big part, is to regain ones freedom from utilities, and from a high cost of living, something which corporations have put considerable effort into extracting every dollar you earn... then sending your job to China.

Facebook User

There's really nothing new or novel about this design. There are similar products (CPV CHP) that employ most of these technologies into a single package. This might be a bit better, but then it isn't in production, and you won't know until it gets to that stage.

David Austin

don't worry about the rich getting richer, it is an excuse for some to reverse engineer the tech n sell it to humanity w/out the guilt, IE black market.


Everyones looking at oil as the evil, how abouts its use.... How about putting all our intelligent energy into using H2O as a fuel, once we figure that out then the whole middle east will fold up like a cheap camera, wonderful news....when oil can't be given away, then we won..


I saw this design 30 years ago in Popular Science. So why is it not implemented yet. I smell fish.

Mark Babcock

I am sure that the limited marketing of these panels has to do with "control" over comsumer's energy costs. In other words, the public is going to be screwed over by the energy monopoly.


The lens should be made out of the flourescent catching LISA plastic material first, then laser cut onto fiber optics cables.

Shawn Boike

Looks like this uses Fresnel lenses to concentrate light on the PV cells. This would not be suitable for most residential applications since the fresnel lenses must be perfectly perpendicular to the sun's rays to work. That means each panel must be able to track the sun. In addition, all that light concentrated on a small spot will get mighty hot. Water circulation will be needed to keep the PV cells cool regardless of whether that hot water is used for space heating or not. This is why these are targeted towards utility applications and not residential applications.

Phillip Hutton

I think that solar panel doesn't produce more than 600 w (400 w electricity and 200 w heat), with 3.5 square meters, while a normal solar panel would produce more or less 630 w of electricity directly. Bye.


I like any kind of study in the field of solar energy. I admire people who cherish, maintain, use, appreciate what you have.

Елена Антонова

Hello, the energy from the heat water with low temperatures (80°C), have very low rate of conversion on other energy types, then 1.700 w of heat water in summer are little useful, and in winter with celsius negative temperatures, the water doesn't get many temperature, perhaps can freeze it and break some pipe. Then I don't think is a good idea a solar panel with both energy types, because the necessity of each one energies are different. Bye.


I have been reading about all these breakthrough solar panel designs for several years. Can anyone tell me i have not seen a single one of these available commercially for sale anywhere, ever?


Did someone let in a group of 14 year old youtube commenters? Is intelligent discourse no longer the standard for Gizmag?

Bill Babcock
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