We've been hearing about the boom in alternative energy research in Silicon Valley for a while now, but not so much in terms of actual marketable products. That may be changing, though, if Mountain View based Sol Focus is any indication.
Looking at the history of solar power, one of the biggest obstacles to its broad acceptance and application has been the high cost of manufacturing photovoltaic cells, and the relatively low output. Sol Focus has a solution that they think could revolutionize the industry, and it's so obvious you have to wonder why it took so long. Rather than make a large panel of pricey semi-conductors, they use comparatively cheap aluminum and glass mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a tiny chip of photovoltaic, both reducing the cost of the unit, and increasing the efficiency of electricity production.
According to the company's website, these dished panels use 1/1000th the active material of a conventional panel, and will produce power as cheaply as conventional (fossil fuel) sources by 2010. As an added bonus, they also look much, much cooler than the typical shiny black slab, offering a gleaming sci-fi gorgeousness that we wouldn't mind on our rooftop one bit.