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Is Northwest Arkansas the new Face of Solar Power?

December 15, 2015
At PicoSolar Facility

Douglas Hutchings explaining the process of how a solar panel works.


What does it take to remove sticker shock from the cost of a solar panel?  Consider the cost of silver and that it is the second most costly component of a solar panel.

That’s where Picasolar, Inc. focused their energy.  Douglas Hutchings, CEO, and his start up company produce a self-aligned Hydrogen Selective Emitter (HSE) that reduces the amount of silver used, simplifies the manufacturer’s application process and increases the efficiency of N-type solar panels.

The HSE, invented by University of Arkansas doctoral candidate and chief technology officer, Seth Shumate, is now patented and the company is currently taking orders for 2016.

The standard emitters used for building solar cells require more grid lines effectively reducing the amount of light reaching the active surface of the cell. This approach also requires a manual alignment of the grid lines and more silver for every grid line. All of this adds to manufacturing costs and the dreaded sticker shock.IMAG1043

Picasolar’s HSE reduces all of these, potentially saving solar panel manufacturers over $100 million annually (source: NRG Upgrade). The HSE reduces grid lines which reduces the amount of silver by up to 22 percent. At the same time the solar cell is 15 percent more efficient.

Finally, the HSE is applied at the end of the manufacturing process and is applied in one step, reducing labor costs.

Recognized both by the Department of Energy with their SunShot incubator award in 2013 and the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, Picasolar started off as a graduate business plan winning competitions at the University of Arkansas, the MIT NSTAR Clean Energy Prize as well as a 2015 bronze Edison Award.

Since its start in 2012, Picasolar has continued to grow.  Reaching another milestone in May of 2015, work previously contracted out is now done at their new facilities at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park.

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