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Customer appreciation: Why Phoenix Solar is investing $615 million in cylindrical solar cells

Munich-based Phoenix Solar AG, a German photovoltaic system installer, has committed $615 million (450 million Euros) to purchasing Solyndra's cylindrical solar cells as a core part of its future rooftop installation business. Why? "We see significant cost-savings," says chief technology officer Manfred Bächler. "We simply do not need any supporting structures or ballasts or roof penetrations," because, unlike traditional flat solar panels, the new round kind don't need any help to keep grounded when the wind blows.

In addition, the ability of the solar cylinders to collect direct, diffuse and sunlight reflected from the rooftop—as well as the ability to lay panels of them horizontal to the roof itself means more electricity can be made from a given rooftop. Further, the solar cylinders keep cooler overall, which enhances the performance of the system, Bächler says.

According to Phoenix's tests, the solar cylinders provide an energy yield "competitive with that produced by conventional modules mounted at a 30 degree angle." The thin-film copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) photovoltaic layer also helps to  lower the price so that they're cheaper conventional solar cells made from silicon.

Phoenix will begin installing such rooftop systems on commercial buildings next year, Bächler says: "At the moment, I myself am looking for a suitable roof [on a building] that I can rent to install and operate such a system."

Credit: Courtesy of Solyndra

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