It may be an old-fashioned carnival carousel from 1926, but it’s powered by some of GE’s most futuristic ecomagination technology. Visitors to the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference now underway — or anyone passing by the corner of 3rd Street and Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas — can take a ride or charge their iPads and cell phones.
The juice comes from GE’s “thin film” panels, which use a cadmium telluride semiconductor to capture sunlight.
The original engine on the carousel has been replaced with an electric motor that runs on solar-powered direct current and is completely quiet.
The vision for thin film solar panels is that they will lead to wider use by significantly bringing down the cost of solar energy. But as we described in our recent audio slideshow with Danielle Merfeld, GE’s solar R&D leader, scientists believe that they will one day wrap around objects, conform to a roof, or even be hung like sails. GE is stepping up the pace of its thin film work in conjunction with PrimeStar Solar Inc., which is an Arvada, Colorado-based startup firm in which GE is a majority investor.