Energy Tech Talk
Let's Talk Energy with... John Paul Morgan, Morgan Solar
Photovoltaic power systems have been around for decades. But making a solar panel that’s twice as efficient, cheaper to produce and easier to deploy? Now that changes everything. John Paul Morgan, President and CTO of Toronto’s Morgan Solar, lets us in on how his company is working to make solar energy more affordable and accessible.
At Morgan Solar, we've developed a pair of technologies that are poised to fundamentally change the economics of solar power, finally realizing its potential to become the most inexpensive power source on the planet. The equation is simple: by combing inexpensive materials and proven manufacturing processes with a revolutionary solar panel design, we've created a clean power solution that can be deployed with minimal cost practically anywhere in the world.
Enabling greater efficiency
Our Sun Simba technology is fairly similar to other photovoltaic systems. But unlike your typical solar panel, we've replaced most of the semiconductor silicon material with easier-to-produce plastic optics. These are able to capture sunlight and concentrate it onto a very small, super-efficient photovoltaic cell about one millimetre in size.
By working with smaller, simpler components, our panels become less expensive to fabricate. And because we've improved the optical efficiency with which we can harvest light and convert it to electricity, the Sun Simba is twice as efficient as a conventional solar panel. Achieving that wasn't easy. We've employed a whole army of physicists, mathematicians, chemists and computer scientists, bringing together the best of the best from Canada’s universities and industries. But what we’re trying to do wouldn't be possible with anything less.
Morgan Solar’s concentrated photovoltaic modules are thinner, more efficient and less expensive than traditional solar panels.
Borrowing proven manufacturing processes
Many companies come up with not only a new technology but also a whole new way of building solar panels. In essence, they try to invent an entire industrial ecosystem, which can be incredibly costly. We took inspiration from the automotive world, developing our technology within the context of proven, real-world supply chains. In that way, we’re not coming up with new ways of building things, just new things to build—and in doing so, we can cut solar system installation costs by 50 percent.
Our technology has the added benefit of releasing less carbon during manufacturing. While most solar panels require two years worth of electricity generation to pay off its carbon deficit, ours require only two months.
Bringing solar to the world
With our Savanna dual-axis tracking system (which automatically follows the sun’s path to increase a panel’s energy yield by 40 percent), we’ll be able to bring these benefits to the entire world. The tracker is housed in a modular, easy-to-construct frame that can be set up in minutes using only hand tools. This allows our panels to be deployed anywhere, including the developing world where infrastructure capacity is limited or in places like landfills where foundations can’t be built.
The Savanna tracker can be set up in less than 15 minutes, making solar power easier and more affordable to deploy.
Our goal is to bring the cost of solar power down to parity with conventional sources of electricity generation. This will likely happen first in sun-rich regions such as the Middle East, India, the U.S. Southwest, Southern Africa and Latin America. It is in these markets where solar will demonstrate its ability to compete head-on, without subsidies, against conventional fuel sources—and it will happen within the next five years.
The first step down this path will occur later this year when Sun Simba becomes commercially available. There will be challenges along the way, of course. This is a highly competitive industry that has experienced tectonic upheaval in recent years. We know we’re just one among hundreds working on solar technology. But we also know that, right now, we’re well ahead of everyone else—and that’s an incredible achievement for a small company from Toronto.