Exotic new thin film and spray-on solar products have been getting a lot of attention lately, but within “older” solar technology there is still room for innovation. SBM Solar has come up with a lightweight, non-reflective solar panel based on monocrystalline silicon solar cells that could help expand the opportunities for solar installations, especially in marine and military solar applications where portability and lack of glare are significant advantages.
Lightweight solar panels can save energy in production, transportation and installion compared to heavier glass panels, but one concern has been durability. SBM believes it has settled that question by achieving Underwriters Laboratories certification for performance (apparently the only monocrystalline solar panels to achieve that rating so far) along with a thumbs up from the International Electrotechnical Commission.
SBM Solar and Lightweight Solar Panels
According to SBM’s press release, the non-glass panels are encapsulated in a shatterproof plastic material developed by The Dow Chemical Company. It is not a conventional thermoplastic, which typically would be based on ethylene vinyl acetate (a substance familiar to those who use hot glue guns, moldable athletic mouth guards, or foam rubber). The combination of the lightweight innards and the durable coating provides a number of advantages that could help lower the end cost of the panels, including a more rapid manufacturing process and a lower carbon footprint for shipping and handling. The panels also come with a built in roof mounting system that should help cut installation costs.
Having Your Solar Cake and Eating It, Too
By focusing on savings in manufacturing, transportation and installation, companies like SBM are taking a big-picture approach that could promote higher (and more expensive) solar cell efficiency while still providing for affordable onsite solar energy. Of particular interest are building-integrated photovoltaic applications, in which the solar cells are contained within building elements like exterior solar walls or solar roof tiles. Building integrated solar could result in additional savings on overall construction costs, making it viable not only for high end state-of-the-art projects but also for more modest applications like emergency shelter and affordable housing. The academic community has been quick to pick up on the affordability aspect, one example being an integrated solar electricity and hot water generator under development in New York City by an engineer at Columbia University in partnership with high school students at nearby Frederick Douglass Academy.
Image: Feather by emdot on flickr.com.
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:
I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...