The biggest problem we have with solar panels currently is what we call ‘lost potential’, or when a solar panel doesn’t capture energy because of something obstructing it. This could be shadows, dirt, or even the fact that sunbeams don’t hit the panel at the right angle and just bounce right off. TIPA solves almost all of those problems with an idea so ridiculously simple, I’m surprised nobody’s thought of this on a larger scale before. Designed as a 3D module rather than a flat 2D panel, TIPA basically traps sunlight inside it, forcing it to bounce off solar panels until it gets absorbed almost entirely. Using a chamber of mirrors, TIPA multiplies the effectiveness of a solar panel, quite like a parabolic mirror focuses light beams in a torch or a car headlamp. TIPA is small, modular, and can be used individually as a personal outdoor accessory or scaled up to charge an entire system of devices like your RV.
Designer: TIPA Design
The design of TIPA is borderline genius. Sunlight has a tendency to bounce off surfaces, making solar panels with glossy exteriors rather ineffective. Matte solar panels don’t just trap sunlight, they trap dirt too, making them difficult to wipe clean when they get dirty. It’s a strange catch-22 situation that TIPA’s design solves brilliantly. The device comes with a hexagonal ‘house’ shaped design, featuring a conical Fresnel lens roof that catches the sun, focusing it inside TIPA’s hollow design. On the inside, TIPA has six vertical solar panels, and a small faceted reflector plate at the bottom. Once a beam of sunlight goes into the TIPA’s interior compartment, it bounces around till it gets absorbed by each panel. Overall, this boosts TIPA’s ability to capture solar power by 300%, making it 3 times more effective than conventional solar-energy systems.
Each TIPA stands at just above 13 inches (331.2mm) and measures 15.2 inches (388mm) wide, making it a compact little powerhouse that’s literally house-shaped. Despite its size, the device outputs 45Wp (watt-peak) under the best circumstances, and can either be used individually, or stacked into modules to output anywhere up to 9kWp (enough to power a four-bedroom house 24×7. A single TIPA comes with 3 output ports – a 10W USB-A port, and two 100W USB-C ports to charge your gadgets. You can connect multiple TIPAs together using solar MC4 connectors to give you even more power for bigger gadgets like a laptop, projector, mini-fridge, etc. TIPA’s designed for the outdoors, which means it’s weather-proof, and can be carried along with your gadgets, or permanently affixed to the roof of your house or RV.
The technology holds quite a lot of promise, coming with extended support from global solar leaders as well as a solid £560,000 grant from the UK government. This new format renders a lot of problems with solar panels obsolete, increasing the efficiency of panels dramatically without needing you to ensure they’re clean and pointed at the sun directly. No matter where the sun’s located in the sky, the Fresnel roof on TIPA captures light and focuses it inwards, giving you consistent efficiency throughout the day. The solar panels themselves also boast a staggering 30-year lifespan, giving you a reliable source of power for decades no matter where you’re located or where you’re going. A single TIPA starts at £50 ($63), and you can scale up to a ‘festival pack’ of 5 TIPAS for £135 ($169) and further, going all the way up to a 200-pack that’s powerful enough to run a 4-bedroom house.