Stretched lens array: ultra-light, affordable green energy technology

Th e Stretched Lens Array (SLA) is a highperformance, ultra-light solar concentrator for space and grid-scale power applications. Developed through multiple funding source contracts with Entech® Solar, Inc., in partnership with NASA’s Glenn Research Center, the innovation employs a thin film lens to concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a small area of photovoltaic (PV) cells. In space, this record-breaking technology has been optimized for the best performance, reliability, and effi ciency through NASA’s award-winning space demonstration on Deep Space 1, a highly successful asteroid/comet rendezvous mission and the fi rst space mission to be powered by triple-junction cells. On the ground, it is now being used with the commercial launch of Entech Solar’s new terrestrial product, the SolarVolt™ module. Th e SolarVolt™ module uses a thin 20X concentrator over simple crystalline silicon PV cells, resulting in a high effi ciency, yet low-cost solar panel.
This technology transfer eff ort is unique in that it has benefi tted both NASA and Entech Solar through a “round-trip” innovation process. Entech Solar’s terrestrial solar power concentrator was spun into a space concentrator in the 1980s. Nearly 30 years later, the company’s SolarVolt™ module is a new solar concentrator that is a direct spinoff from the space technology. Th e roots of the technology transfer are in NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, but transfer eff orts over three decades have grown to include numerous other contracts at Glenn and other NASA centers. The NASA
Glenn team devised innovative and creative ways to test the SLA innovation for performance, from specialized testing in thermal and radiation environments; to performance evaluation under space conditions using the Glenn Lear Jet solar cell calibration facility; and high voltage experiments conducted on the peaks of Mt. Haleakala in Hawaii.
Entech Solar has developed and patented multiple advancements in the solar concentrator arena. Green energy U.S.-based jobs will be created as Entech Solar commercializes the SolarVolt™ module and implements its 2012 mass production plan. At Glenn, collaborative work continues, as innovators work with Entech Solar and other fi rms to support the emerging in-space transportation market. In journeying from the Earth to space and back again, the super-effi cient SLA concentrator technology will enable future NASA missions, further the commercial development of space, and provide environmentally renewable energy to utilityscale power plants.
Award Year: