Solar Power Technologies Raises $6.08 Million To Optimize Commercial Solar Arrays, Wirelessly

Today, an SEC filing revealed that Solar Power Technologies raised $6.08 million for technology that helps wirelessly measure, manage and optimize the performance of large, solar power generating systems. Investors included Austin Ventures and Oxantium Ventures, the filing said.

The company claims its technology enables commercial solar arrays to harvest 15 to 20 per cent more total power over a 20 year lifespan than they would otherwise.

The system works, Burgess explained, by alleviating something called the “christmas tree light problem,” where panels in a solar array only harvest and output as much power as the weakest one in the chain.

SPT’s Clarity system includes the installation of small controllers behind panels within the array. The controllers identify a weakened panel or any other constraint or restriction in the system, then boost up the outputs of capable panels around it.

As Todd Woody noted today in a piece for Sustainable Industries: one large solar power plant can cost more than $2 billion to build in the U.S. making productivity-spiking technology (like SPT promises) sound at the very least attractive for companies that laid out so much cash to go solar, and want to get every last watt of renewable power that they can for their money.

The company’s chief executive, Ray Burgess, reported Monday that SPT will advance to a commercial launch by mid-year. The startup is currently working on field trials of its Clarity-brand monitoring and optimizing system with potential customers, namely utilities based in the southwestern United States.

Burgess said:

“We have the ability to give [customers] insight into how [their] large-scale solar arrays perform, and help them harvest and put out more power under all conditions.

There are some estimated 200 million solar photovoltaic panels installed around the world right now. Probably 20-30% of the power they could be generating now is lost before it ever gets to the grid. Maintenance of all that equipment is a challenge.

These are huge financial matters if nothing else for utilities and for commercial renewable energy.”

SPT plans to use its new-found capital to: complete its field tests; attain various safety and environmental certifications; ramp up its production; hire personnel to expand its sales footprint to Europe and Asia by the end of 2011; and to develop technology that works beyond crystalline solar panel arrays with CIGS, thin-film and concentrated photovoltaics.

Utilities may use each of these technologies in the field, SPT anticipates, depending on everything from costs to improvements in efficiency conversion rates.