Get A Free Solar Quote
Longhorn is a Certified Solar Installer

Advancements in Solar Energy Leave Quite the Impression at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit

For those of you who are unaware, for the past four years now, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has held its Energy Innovation Summit, which introduces great new ideas to the world of renewable energy. What’s most exciting is that as the conference once again rolled into Washington D.C. this past Monday, February 25th, Forbes contributor, David Ferris seemed stumble across “some sexy new concepts in solar power.” After reading the article, it was apparent that there were three projects in particular that managed to catch Ferris’ eye the most.


  • The Solar Vortex – Inspired by the dust devils that are caused in the Southwest region of the U.S. when hot air rises, twists and transforms into a momentary dust tornado,  Georgia Tech led creators have attempted to take this same type of dust devil energy and capture it inside a short cylinder.

“These squat machines could bring renewable energy to regions that are bombarded by heat but don’t have much wind.” It is also estimated that “the Solar Vortex could spin out electricity 20 percent cheaper than wind turbines.”


  • Sunfolding – “A heliostat is the mirror and assembly that bounces light into a central point, creating heat that in turn creates steam and spins a turbine to generate electricity.” In turn, the Sunfolding is a smaller, less expensive version of the heliostat.

Usually, a gearbox would be needed in order to operate a heliostat but with the Sunfolding, a new tracking technology will be introduced. Instead of using gears, two air bladders will be used, inflating and deflating to follow the arc of the sun across the sky.

“Making heliostats cheaper could bring us closer to the day when concentrated solar energy is comparable in price to fossil fuels like coal or natural gas.”


  • MicroLink Devices – Imagine a small military drone with solar panels adorning its wings; that’s what was present at the MicroLink Devices’ table. According to the company, tests have shown that with the use of these solar panels, flight time for this drone (known as the Raven) can be extended from one hour to two hours.

MicroLink has also figured out how to reduce costs for triple-junction solar cells, which capture different wavelengths of light. The first way of doing this consists of growing solar panels on indium phosphide, a much cheaper than the alternative. Secondly, MicroLink has discovered how to peel the solar panel off, while still managing to leave the substrate intact for future use.


The ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit concluded as of yesterday, Wednesday, February 27th and after reading this article in Forbes, we think it’s safe to say that advancements in solar energy are leaving quite an impression. We look forward to being a part of what’s to come in the future!