Scientists at MIT have experimented with, and produced, extremely efficient solar panels that are capable of tracking the movement of the sun and producing extremely large amounts of power.
By building vertical towers, the panels were able to track the sun more efficiently while it was close to the horizon, as well as during changes in seasons. Different permutations of the design yielded anywhere from double to 20x the output with the same surface area of paneling.
Not only does the new design offer a more consistent flow of electricity for those that need it, the panels can be 3D printed. Though they do cost more than flat panels, the increase in energy output outweighs the cost. It also allows people to build multiple towers next to each other, instead of a singular flat panel.
The study was documented in Energy and Environmental Science. The value of this new model is made possible because of the drastic drop in cost of solar panels over the last decade. “Even 10 years ago, this idea wouldn’t have been economically justified because the modules cost so much,” Jeffrey Grossman who led the study says. But now, he adds, “the cost for silicon cells is a fraction of the total cost, a trend that will continue downward in the near future.”