Niles grad designs new solar technology

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Michael Lee hopes to revolutionize the solar cell market.

A 1978 graduate of Niles High School, Lee is vice president of marketing and new business development for the new company Sol Electrica Inc.



The company’s first product — still in the design phase — is what Lee is calling a modular solar power plant, or MSPP.

Its design is influenced heavily by the large desert-based solar tower arrays, but is on a much smaller scale.

The MSPP consists of three reflective dishes, each six feet in diameter, that work much like a solar tower array. Each dish focuses the sun’s rays upon a collector, which extends up from the middle of each dish.

The captured heat is then used to run a micro-boiler, which provides pressurized steam to drive a blade-less turbine. The turbine creates alternating current (AC) electricity for the home or business.

Lee said the MSPP would create 5,000 watts of AC per hour, more than enough for a typical residence. The unused power, he said, could be sold back to the local power company.

“It is set up to run people’s homes and help them make money,” he said.

The MSPP could be scaled up or down to meet the needs of consumers.

He hopes to market it to schools, municipalities and residences.

Lee claims that the MSPP will be far more efficient than today’s solar cells, which he said operate at around 17 percent efficiency.

“Sol Electrica’s design will be over 50-percent efficient and tracks the sun to produce three times more peak electric energy during a full sunlight day,” he said. “These innovations clearly will compete and replace the need for most solar cell applications in a worldwide $82 billion market.”

Lee said Sol Electrica is in the process of raising $4.97 million through the sale of equity shares. The money would be used to create an MSPP prototype, which would then undergo testing to determine if it is safe and effective.

If the product is a success, Lee said he would like to manufacture it in Niles.

“That would be a dream come true,” Lee said. “It would be wonderful to bring back something to the place where I grew up.”

After graduating from Niles High, Lee studied biology, chemistry and physics at Manchester College in Indiana. He worked in research and development at National Standard in Niles for five years before moving to Florida to work for Baker Electronics, which was eventually sold to Honeywell Avionics.

For more information on Sol Electrica, visit the website