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Photos: Solar Power 2006

New technologies for converting sunlight into electricity previewed this week at the Solar Power 2006 Conference and Expo in San Jose, Calif.
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1 of 7 Andy Smith/ZDNet

Cruise Cart

The Cruise Car, a solar-powered golf cart that can crank up to 22 miles an hour, was among the devices on display this week at the Solar Power 2006 Conference and Expo in San Jose, Calif. It's street legal if used on roads where the speed limit is 35 or under, says Cruise Car, the company that makes the carts. And if you wipe out, it won't burst into flames.

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2 of 7 Andy Smith/ZDNet

Cruise Car solar array

The solar array of the Cruise Car sits on the roof of the golf cart. It charges the battery. The top-of-the-line version of the cart can go 65 miles before the battery is tapped out. It also costs $7,000, but you can also buy just the panel for $1,500 and stick it on your own cart. You know, gearhead action. Pop a Bob Seger album into the 8-track and hang out in the driveway with your pals.

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3 of 7 Andy Smith/ZDNet

Sharp's experimental panel

An experimental solar panel from Sharp Electronics. What you see here is a Fresnel lens. It concentrates sunlight, which gets directed toward a tiny solar cell (7 by 7 millimeters). The cell converts sunlight to electricity. It can convert 36 percent of sunlight into electricity, which is far higher than the conversion rate for normal silicon cells.

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4 of 7 Andy Smith/ZDNet

Fresnel lens close-up

A close-up of the Fresnel lens. It concentrates so much sunlight that, to the solar cell, it is like the light of 700 suns, which sort of sounds like the prophecy of an Inca shaman.

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inside the solar cell

A close-up of the solar cell inside the experimental panel. Rather than silicon, the cell is made of a more expensive class of chemical compounds known as "three-five," or III-V. Still, the greater efficiency of these materials could make them economical. Sharp may come out with a commercial version in 2007 or 2008.

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6 of 7 Andy Smith/ZDNet

Solon Mover

The Solon Mover. From Germany, this solar array tracks the sun and can put out 9.2 kilowatts of power. The unit costs about 17,000 euros (about $21,000) but a few acres of these can meet all the power needs of a small town or village. "Das is fantastisch! Und nicht zu teuer," we told the company representatives.

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7 of 7 Andy Smith/ZDNet

Solon Mover, back

The back of the Solon Mover. The electrical components in the box make up the inverter, which essentially takes the energy captured by the solar panel and sends it on its way.

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