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Sunflare’s Lightweight Solar Lets Solar Go Where It Couldn’t Go Before #SPI2018

Sunflare's Lightweight Solar Lets Solar Go Where It Couldn't Go Before #SPI2018


Revealed on October 21st, 2018 |
by Kyle Area

October 21st, 2018 by Kyle Area 

Some of the thrilling corporations we discovered on the 2018 Solar Energy Worldwide present in Anaheim this yr was Sunflare and its line of versatile CIGS photo voltaic panels.

CleanTechnica sat down with Sunflare’s Chief Advertising Officer, Elizabeth Sanderson, and its Vice President of Business Enterprise Improvement, Joshua Held, to talk about their world debut at SPI. “This is our launch to the world, at this show,” Joshua stated.

Sunflare might have made its world debut at SPI this yr, however is is certainly not new to photo voltaic. The corporate has been engaged on the design of its cells and merchandise for 9 years now and solely began truly producing the cells at significant volumes final yr.

The panels begin with Sunflare’s CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) photo voltaic cells, created with a proprietary know-how that really prints the cells onto a stainless-steel backing. The sheet of stainless that they’re printed on is sturdy and versatile, and opens up new choices for a way and the place photo voltaic panels could be was merchandise.

Sunflare’s group took their new photo voltaic cells and turned them into normal 6 by 10 panels of versatile photo voltaic modules, which has been appropriately named the Flex 60. They arrive out nearly the identical measurement as a standard photo voltaic module and on the floor, you in all probability wouldn’t have the ability to inform the distinction. However Sunflare’s panels are totally different and transformational as a result of they’re much lighter than conventional photo voltaic panels and since they’re versatile.

New And Improved CIGS

CIGS photo voltaic cells have traditionally been inefficient and dear, which have made them uncompetitive with conventional silicon photo voltaic. Joshua Held shared that Sunflare has developed a singular cell-to-cell manufacturing course of that gives a number of benefits of the extra conventional roll-to-roll manufacturing course of for CIGS cells.

Elizabeth shared that the corporate’s proprietary course of lets it optimize the output of every cell in a panel. “We have a bypass diode per cell, so shading is not an issue,” she stated. This optimizes the output for every cell versus regular panels that lose panel effectivity when any a part of it’s shaded. Including a diode for every cell does add value vs a extra conventional wiring scheme and is among the elements the Sunflare group is weighing

The draw back of CIGS is the effectivity. Silicon photo voltaic cells and modules have had many years of labor for corporations around the globe to optimize cell design, effectivity, value and finally, general output. “We need to continue doing exactly what silicon has been doing for years,” Josh stated. Due to its decrease effectivity, “the biggest constraint is energy density per square foot,” he stated.

Sunflare is presently at 14-16% effectivity on the cell and 11% environment friendly on the module degree. With conventional panels up round 20% effectivity, relying on the producer, there’s clearly some work to do. Having stated that, the Kyocera panels REC Solar placed on the roof of our residence again in 2011 have been 15.6% effectivity, so even silicon cells have made progress simply over the previous few years. Take a look at the comparability of their CIGS-based modules and conventional silicon modules right here (PDF).

Even with the decrease efficiencies, Sunflare’s system prices are aggressive because the set up is a way more simple course of and requires no racking. This additionally lowers the carbon footprint of the techniques, making Sunflare’s techniques a few of the extra local weather pleasant panels on the market. They anticipate that to proceed to enhance as they scale up operations over the subsequent few years. The complete specs for Sunflare’s modules might be discovered on their product knowledge sheet. (PDF)

Like most conventional photo voltaic modules, Sunflare’s panels sport a 25-year guarantee with a manufacturing assure of 90% of said capability for the primary 10 years and at the very least 80% of the nameplate output for years 11-25. These claims and warranties are based mostly on accelerated life testing that mandates photo voltaic merchandise endure a minimum of 1,000 hours for UL certification. Sunflare lasted 6,000 hours, which supplies confidence within the product.

Sunflare’s modules are made with a 3M prime sheet, giving identify model credibility to the one factor standing behind the cells and the solar. Backing them up, the cells are literally printed instantly onto top quality chrome steel which is sealed in with a composite Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) again sheet.

Sunflare Goes Where Conventional Solar Couldn’t Go Before

The light-weight design means installers can put these 5 kilogram | 11 pound modules in locations the place the normal ~19 kilogram | ~40 pound photo voltaic modules weren’t capable of be put in. Taking that to the market, Sunflare has targeted its efforts on light-weight shade buildings and membrane business roofing techniques.

Lightweight shade buildings are the buildings like carports and patio covers that have been constructed to offer shade or safety from the weather, however lack the bodily integrity wanted for use for a standard photo voltaic system. As a result of Sunflare’s modules are almost 30 kilos lighter than conventional panels, they are perfect for these kind of installations and really open up many present buildings to photo voltaic installations.

Membrane business roofing techniques equally lack the structural integrity required to help bigger photo voltaic installations, however that’s not an issue for Sunflare. The corporate presently makes use of a butyl adhesive to carry the panels to the roof, however are targeted on creating a mechanical system to safe their panels to a roof.

Having stated that, even with the present know-how, Sunflare’s panels don’t require roof penetrations to be put in, which is certain to deliver peace of thoughts to all these facility managers on the market dreading the prospect of additional weight on their roof with a serving of latest holes on the aspect.

Improvement of the mechanical system continues to be very a lot in improvement, however theoretically will permit the modules to be strung over rooftops in a short time, with little or no incremental effort required. It additionally has the potential to open up thrilling new set up purposes like stringing them over troublesome terrain, rooftops, speedy deployment setups for emergency aid, and shading.

Solar Roof Tiles

Trying to the longer term, Sunflare has already recognized photo voltaic roof tiles as a profitable software for light-weight, sturdy photo voltaic merchandise. These aren’t going to be laminated between two sheets of glass, however slightly, developed very similar to Sunflare’s bigger panels that deliver their flexibility, sturdiness and light-weight type issue to the constructing built-in photovoltaic (BIPV) get together.

The present design has the panels snapping along with two connectors that nearly seem like the snap buttons generally discovered on clothes. Sunflare’s snaps additionally present a way for present to stream. To safe them to the roof, roofers can use regular composite roofing nails that gained’t interrupt the movement of energy. Rounding out the set up, a strip of adhesive tacks the underside of the roof tile to the tile or floor under it.

Every tile will generate about 2 watts every and they’re linked collectively in strings that run throughout the roof. In complete, they anticipate to have the ability to put a 4kW system on the roof of a mean single household residence. For reference, we had a four.4kW system comprised of 17 panels on the roof of our home and it took up about half of the roof. However, our set up was beastly heavy and required quite a few holes into our roof to put in, to not point out the additional weight on the roof.

Sunflare’s photo voltaic roof tiles are nonetheless 18-24 months from shifting into manufacturing, however the prototypes the corporate had at Solar Energy Worldwide this yr appeared extraordinarily promising. The staff shared that they’re nonetheless working to finalize the design, to make sure the tiles are as straightforward to put in as attainable.


Sunflare’s R&D and proprietary printing course of comes from Sweden, however the manufacturing is predicated in Nanjing, China. The corporate at present has eight MW of manufacturing capability on-line and is working to determine an extra 40 MW of manufacturing capability by the top of subsequent yr.

The workforce has huge plans for the know-how, the one query is whether or not or not they will proceed to enhance the efficiencies, value, and scale of the manufacturing course of to help bigger volumes. To develop past the early markets it has recognized, Sunflare goes to need to put in some critical work.

On prime of the technological challenges, Sunflare has hit the headwinds shared by nearly all of the photo voltaic business within the type of Trump’s Tariffs. These went into impact on the finish of August and are having a really actual influence on not simply the upper worth of the modules themselves, but in addition on the corporate’s backside line. Whereas Sunflare did take pricing to offset a few of the harm, the margins are additionally chopping into its margins.

It is absurd to assume how a lot time and power within the photo voltaic business alone are being devoted to discovering options to the self-made drawback that tariffs symbolize. Wanting a couple of years forward, the instability and uncertainty that the present administration have launched to the photo voltaic business and past makes the issue that rather more troublesome to unravel, if that’s even a factor.

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Tags: cigs, Elizabeth Sanderson, Joshua Held, Solar Energy Worldwide 2018, photo voltaic roof tiles, SunFlare

Concerning the Writer

Kyle Area I am a tech geek passionately looking for actionable methods to scale back the adverse impression my life has on the planet, get monetary savings and scale back stress. Reside deliberately, make acutely aware selections, love extra, act responsibly, play. The extra you already know, the much less you want. TSLA investor.

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