Patriot Solar Group: Really Cool Concentrated Solar Thermal and PV!
We interviewed Mike from Patriot Solar Group at the 2009 InterSolar conference in San Francisco, CA. Patriot Solar Group is a manufacturer of acrylic plastic surfaces and concentrated solar photovoltaics (CSP), both used in solar thermal systems.
The first product Mike spoke with us about was a concentrated Solar Thermal product. Solar Thermal systems heat air or water. When heating water you create steam, and this steam can be used to make electricity. Hot air can be used to move a Stirling engine or similar device, and through that you can generate electricity.
Most of the Concentrated Solar Thermal systems on the market have aluminum, or heavy materials such as glass, as their solar backing and they have a reflective surface on top. This makes the products labor intensive to manufacture and install. To solve this issue, Patriot Solar Group panels are manufactured using a new, clear, acrylic plastic surface with an aluminum or zinc backing. Since the acrylic is see-through, it acts similarly to glass, but it is lighter and less labor intensive to manufacture and install. In addition, the aluminum backing is 94% reflective, and the product can be molded into any shape or form.
Another advantage of this product is that it is easier to ship, and it has less parts. Mike also mentioned that the system is very durable, and after being in the sun for over 10 years their products have maintained their reflectivity. Patriot Solar Group panels use a day lighting system to absorb solar rays from the sun and convert those rays to usable solar energy. The panels are very light and as a result they are 15-30% cheaper than other available solar solutions. The target markets for this product are companies who manufacture Stirling Engine Systems as well as companies that make steam to convert to electricity.
The second product that Mike spoke with us about was Patriot Solar Group's Concentrated Photovoltaic system. This product is composed of a series of clear cells containing gallium arsenide, which is a very efficient semi-conductor. It's actually a better semi-conductor than silicon, but it is more expensive. Gallium arsenide PV panels are about 35% efficient, while silicon PV Panels are only about 17% efficient.
In order to optimize the system efficiency, good tracking systems are crucial. Therefore, in order to make their Concentrated Photovoltaic system function at an optimum level, Patriot Solar Group also offers a dual-axis tracking system. In addition to the dual-axis tracking system, Patriot Solar Group also makes a single axis horizontal tracking system where 3 kilowatts can be put on each tracker. For this product, the company's ideal clients are usually those that find space as an issue including utility and telemarketing companies.