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World's lightest photovoltaic solar modules made with composites

News International-French

31 May 2013

Together with its partners, TULiPPS Solar B.V. has developed its first fully functional prototypes of what is currently projected to be the world's lightest building - integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) solar modules for pitched roofs and cladding applications.

These modules have an area weight of 8 .5 kg/m 2 (1.7 lb/ft 2) , so a unit that is 180 by 85 cm (71 by 34 in.) weighs just 13 kg (29 lb) compared with conventional BIPV modules with a typical area weight that can range from 13 to 20 kg/m 2 (2.7 to 41 lb/ft 2). The new prototypes were developed under the Lightweight Rooftop BIPV System (LiRoB) innovation project , which itself is part of the Topconsortium for Knowledge & Innovation (TKI) : Solar Energy program under the National Topsector & Innovation policy, Renewable Energy section sponsored by the Dutch government.

Last year, TULiPPS Solar won the Dutch Solar Award in the Industry Development category for its innovative COSMOS module technology platform, which was developed cooperatively with partners from the plastics/composites, automotive, PV module, roofing, and PV installer market segments. Two unique aspects of the platform are the use of a very - thin 2 - mm (0.08 - in.) face layer of fully tempered glass plus a hybrid composite/metal "underbody" construction that supports the rest of the module. Since bulky and unattractive conventional aluminum PV frames have been replaced by the patent - pending "frameless" support system on all COSMOS modules, the effect is a more attractive GlassEnergy pitched roof or claddin g that weighs and costs less yet is tougher (more break resistant) than conventional BIPV modules . Design flexibility also provides the opportunity to cover far more surface area than is possible with conventional BIPV modules.

The far lower area weight of the new BIPV module prototypes is significant for many reasons, because:
• they use less materials (helping lower costs)
• they require less energy to produce (helping lower the manufacturing carbon footprint)
• they can be used on a broader range of roofs and cladding surfaces without need for structural reinforcement (helping shorten installation time and lower installation costs for solar BIPV projects)
• They require less effort by solar installers to transport them to and secure them on to pitched roofs or cladding ( helping make installation easier and faster with fewer workers , also helping to lower costs).

Initial prototypes were completed in March and are currently out for testing and evaluation while design and product specifications are finalized. Later this year the first modules will be installed at pilot projects to enable field testing. Module certification is expected to be complete by year's end, with large - scale commercial production beginning in 2014.

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