Solar power has been around for decades, but the high cost of solar panels has kept them out of reach for most homeowners. That could change thanks to technology developed at Oregon State University that’s being commercialized by Corvallis-based startup Beet Inc.
Beet’s bright idea is a thin-film solar cell that delivers high power density with just a fraction of the materials used in traditional silicon solar cells. The thin films — about 1/100 the diameter of a human hair — are made from low-cost raw materials that allow scalability to high-volume manufacturing. The envisioned production at existing facilities clears important hurdles for market acceptance in utility, commercial and residential installations.
Beet’s technology could help solar power achieve grid parity — the point at which a solar panel generates power at a price that is less than or equal to the cost of power generated from common sources.
“By being much more efficient and keeping costs low, we could potentially bring solar energy generation on par with fossil fuels,” says Beet founder and CEO Robert Kokenyesi. “That’s our dream.”
To turn that dream into reality, Beet is investigating different solar cell prototypes for proof-of-concept. Extensive development and field testing lie ahead to determine how Beet’s solar cells perform under different conditions and withstand long-term exposure to environmental factors such as rain and heat.
Future growth in Corvallis
Beet is a participant in the Oregon State Advantage Accelerator-RAIN Corvallis. The center, located in downtown Corvallis, helps launch, sustain and grow new businesses spun off from university research. Beet’s innovation originates from a confluence of activities from a Department of Energy funded materials research project and the National Science Foundation, along with the university’s Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, led by Oregon State professor and
Beet co-founder Douglas Keszler. Beet currently holds an exclusive license to the thin-film solar cell technology developed at Oregon State University.
While the company is still in the startup phase, Kokenyesi plans to stay and expand in Corvallis. He plans to hire 20 employees for positions ranging from electrical engineers to scientists and business professionals. Kokenyesi says he and his team are very interested in maintaining their ties to the university and hiring Oregon State graduates and student interns.
For more information, visit advantage.oregonstate.edu.