Tuesday, October 2, 2012

SoloPower Offers Relatively Expensive Panels with a Potentially Huge Cost Benefit

Editor’s Update October 2, 2012: Someone has notified me that SoloPower has not actually posted anything on the cost of SoloPower’s solar modules, and that the numbers below (which we retrieved from Greentech Media) are extrapolated from another technology. I am contacting SoloPower to try to get confirmation of that.

We wrote about SoloPower in March when it broke the efficiency record for CIGS solar modules, and we’ve actually covered the company a few times over the past few years. SoloPower charges $2.20 per watt for their flexible solar panels, if purchasing a whopping 10 MW (10,000 kW) of panels, that is. On such a large-scale, typical hard solar panels made of metal and glass (or plastic) can cost $1 per watt.

SoloPower’s flexible CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenium) solar panels have some clear installation benefits. They can be pasted onto roofs without penetrating them. Penetration requires expensive contractors, and the construction of mounting equipment for solar panels does, too.

SoloPower’s flexible CIGS solar panels.
Flexible solar panels can also be installed onto uneven surfaces much more easily than typical rigid metal panels, and they can even be installed onto surfaces that it would be impossible to mount rigid metal panels onto.

As you can see in the picture above, installation can actually be very simple, and this opens up a window of opportunity to install solar panels yourself, which is far cheaper than having a contractor install them. This is because solar panel installation is so expensive that it costs more than the panels themselves.
There is a catch to flexible thin-film solar panels, though. They tend to be less efficient than rigid mono-crystalline panels, and they are more expensive.

The easy pasting installation concept also has a catch. Pasting panels on your roof may entail replacing your roof when the panels go bad, depending on the type of roof you have.

If you have an asphalt roof, then the panels could outlast the roof, but they normally have the same lifespan as the roof (20 years). So, ideally, the panels are likely to need replacement at the same time as the roof.
There are also adhesives which can easily be peeled back off — although I can’t verify how long such adhesives could last. And there’s one major catch to this idea — ease of theft. Solar panels that are permanently glued to roofs cannot be stolen, so their theft deterrence is superior.

For smaller scale projects that are up to 500 kW, SoloPower’s panels cost $2.95 per watt.
SoloPower is headquartered in San Jose, California.
Source: Green Tech Media

Photo Credit: SoloPower
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