(Image Credit: Solyndra)
Whether or not you believe the future of humanity lies upon the red planet one thing is clear–traditional solar panels are not a practical option for energy.
Since Mars receives approximately half of the solar energy that Earth does, future outposts will probably require a lot more panels than a regular outpost on the Moon. Worse, Martian winds could easily rip solar panels off of future outposts, a common problem on Earth.
Instead of relying upon expensive, silicon solar panels that may become easily damaged, future colonists may opt for something a little bit rounder (and less expensive).
(Solyndra) Solyndra’s panels employ cylindrical modules which capture sunlight across a 360-degree photovoltaic surface capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. Solyndra’s panels perform optimally when mounted horizontally and packed closely together, thereby covering significantly more of the typically available roof area and producing more electricity per rooftop on an annual basis than a conventional panel installation. The result is significantly more solar electricity per rooftop per year.
The Solyndra system is lightweight and the panels allow wind to blow through them. These factors enable the installation of PV on a broader range of rooftops without anchoring or ballast, which are inherently problematic. The horizontal mounting and unique “air-flow” properties of Solyndra’s solar panel design substantially simplify the installation process for Solyndra’s PV systems. The ease of installation and simpler mounting hardware of the Solyndra system enables its customers to realize significant savings on installation costs.
While larger colonies will probably eventually rely upon solar thermal plants for energy (as the output is probably greater), smaller outposts may choose to rely upon these less expensive solar rods instead (as it will help drop the price tag of sending the first man and woman to the red planet).