Retro Solar Panels Are Fabulously Spiky and Orange

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 27 2014 11:04 AM

Retro Solar Panels Are Fabulously Spiky and Orange

solar1
A solar array, not hair curlers.

Photo from the Department of Energy.

When it comes to increasing the use of renewable forms of energy, there's a lot riding on solar power. So the solar industry is producing cutting-edge panels and solar cells that can heat homes, run cars, and charge smartphones. The field produced cutting-edge work in the 1970s, too, but the solar panels had, well, a slightly different aesthetic.

Created for Argonne National Laboratory by Sun Trac Corp. with funding from the Department of Energy, these "solar concentrators" connected to photovoltaic cells to generate electricity for things like heating and cooling systems. Gizmodo, which spotted these photos, notes that their shape allowed them to gather maximum sunlight, even if it was bouncing off air pollution, smog, or haze.

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The solar industry has come a long way in terms of the cost and efficiency of solar panels, but in terms of looks, they just don't make 'em like they used to.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.