Homeowners looking to harness solar energy to power the home should keep an eye on California-based Practical Instruments and their prototype—the Heliotube. Built to the same specifications as a traditional solar panel (60” x 42” x 6”), the Heliotube features ten small solar troughs that rotate to follow the sun. The Heliotube was developed for commercial application but will readily adapt to residential buildings. It mounts like traditional solar panels, weighs 45 pounds, and uses 88% less photovoltaic material than traditional panels. According to the company, this translates into a more “efficient and cost-effective solar solution.” Practical Instruments plans to begin shipping the panels in late ’06 and early ’07 but has yet to disclose a cost. With grid certification, a 20-year warranty, and an eventual price goal of $3 per watt of power production (with rebates), the Heliotube is likely to improve the solar-power playing field in the very near future.

Credit: The Energy Blog

Practical Instruments