Solar Power System at NASA Flight Center

NASA and SunPower Corporation, a manufacturer and designer of silicon solar cells, have completed the installation of a 5-kW solar electric power system at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Edwards Air Force Base, Travis, California – December 10, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] “NASA has a long history of fielding innovative, breakthrough technology at NASA Dryden,” said Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower Corp. “From the early supersonic aircraft to the space shuttle, NASA has pioneered technologies that had been previously considered impossible or impractical to implement. It is appropriate that NASA Dryden has installed the first A-300 system.” SunPower, a subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor Corp, has a history of collaboration with NASA. NASA used SunPower solar cells in its Helios solar-powered aircraft, which set an altitude record of 96,863 feet in 2001. The SunPower system at NASA Dryden is designed to provide clean electricity while helping to educate visitors about renewable energy. “We are pleased that NASA was able to field the first commercial application of this exciting new solar electric power technology,” said NASA’s Jenny Baer-Riedhart. “Over the past seven years, we have worked with SunPower to develop high-efficiency solar cells to energize our highly successful Pathfinder Plus and Helios solar-powered aircraft as part of the Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program. It’s exciting to see this technology coming down to earth.” According to SunPower, the system is the first to incorporate the company’s 20 percent efficient A-300 solar cells, which SunPower said are a significant improvement over many currently available cells in the 12 to 15 percent range, as higher-efficiency cells provide solar power systems with more power per unit area and can provide users with significant cost savings. SunPower claims that with rated efficiency over 20 percent, the A-300 can deliver up to 50 percent more energy from a given roof area compared with traditional solar products. According to the company, unlike conventional solar cells, SunPower’s A-300 incorporates all electrical contacts on the back surface; and this architecture allows for significantly higher conversion efficiency of light to electricity, and also eliminates unsightly reflective front-side contacts. “The installation of the first full-scale A-300 system is a key milestone as we move toward volume production in 2004,” said SunPower Vice President of Sales and Marketing Peter Aschenbrenner. “SunPower’s high-efficiency solar cell technology not only provides more power per unit of roof area, but it can also drive significant system savings through reduced module assembly and downstream installation costs.”
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