“PowerTextiles” Next Generation Photo Voltaic’s

Selkirk, 27 November 2013

 

Dr. Robert Mather and Professor John Wilson share a moment to show off their Solar PV Textile they call PowerTextiles. After many years in the laboratory these two eminent Scottish scientists successfully integrated PV into a polyester fabric. PowerTextiles is one conductive polymer layer integrated with conductive and semi conductive layers on polyester fabric.   Why are PowerTextiles the future of the Photo Voltaic Industry? PowerTextiles are more flexible than any other existing solar panel technology, firstly the surface of the fabric is not flat like traditional PV materials it means from the offset they can potentially harvest more sunshine than lets say ultra flat silicon or even flexible thin film cells. All solar harvesting averages but a few hours a day at best, unlike regular panels once the system is done for the day it can be rolled up, or retracted to become unobtrusive. Solar textiles are also temporary structures, potentially needing no planning permission. Unlike solar panels which are obtrusive PowerTextiles life cycle is truly extended as they can be placed out of harms way when not in use. As integrated solutions PowerTextiles are already far more efficient than solar panels because as well as producing electricity they provide solar protection, and because they can protect building environments from direct sunshine penetrating a window or a curtain wall or atrium it means huge cost savings are available for maintaining building environments and building user comfort. PowerTextiles are most suited to reactive solar protection they can provide or upgrade any building with a second skin which could simply be retracting when not need. In terms of mechanical cooling in summer and winter a lot of energy is saved in reducing impact on air handling systems. Even in winter maintaining steady temperatures on sunny winter days has benefits many times over any other existing PV technologies. PowerTextiles can shield entire structures with temporary reactive solar protection it can mean 25% and more energy savings in offices and other commercial buildings, relatively small elevations shielded even temporarily with PowerTextiles can match the energy benefits of whole fields of PV in energy economics. “PowerTextiles are building components they are EVE® stage THREE and EVE® stage FOUR solutions in one system because they save energy as well as making energy. As a versatile building component they are more easily applied into mainstream architecture. The novelty value of providing renewable energy makes PowerTextiles far more likely to be accepted by architects and designers than plain textiles for this reason PowerTextiles will cause a renaissance in solar protection, changing the way we build buildings in future.”  Many offices and shopping centres demonstrate to be over insulated, this phenomenon is well demonstrated because the cost of cooling is many times higher than the cost of heating so the activities inside well insulated buildings create much small heat gains costing much energy to evacuate. Installation of PowerTextiles as solar protection reduces the physical heat gain impacted on the facade and roof of a building and because any direct sunshine is isolated from the building envelope the building environmental control has less temperature increase and less temperature changes to deal with. PowerTextiles shades direct sunshine which is harvested by PowerTextiles and turned into usable electricity How will PowerTextiles replace existing Photo Voltaic solutions? PowerTextiles can serve many of the purposes which will ultimately lead to the redundancy of standard PV. Firstly PowerTextiles is an ideal BiPV medium [Building-integrated Photo Voltaic] this promising market for renewable energy so far was completely restricted by rigid panels. Many roof structures such as supermarkets, shopping centers and warehouses, so called big box construction cannot bear the weight of heavy solar panels meanwhile PowerTextiles can be placed on almost any roof and on all forms of big box construction. “As much as 19% of all energy consumed in advanced nations is consumed through big box, having the right solutions in the right place are an obvious advantage. Whilst this is a huge disadvantage for Silicon PV it is a huge benefit to PowerTextiles.” PV should work best in sunny climates, for example in the desert, in hot conditions where the sun shines the most but silicon and thin film do not work well in these hot climates. Firstly searing temperatures have a negative effect on all PV solar panels electrical capability secondly the laminated layers quickly become defective, heat reduces the output of silicon and all thin film solutions. Laminated panels rapidly become defective in the desert, sand requires constant maintenance in certain seasons. Silicon PV requires a lot of space, it consumes all of the land beneath the panels because extensive structural and sub structural support is necessary. In the desert extra maintenance is required because sand shifts. Sand becomes deposited in recesses and it erodes protective coatings. Thin film encapsulation becomes scratched and defective, plastic is not efficient, solar farms in the desert are not as practical as some would have us believe. However in hot climates PowerTextiles can be integrated over sidewalks and installed in car parks as tents, as canopies and befitting local architecture, culture and aesthetics. PowerTextiles serve as shade as well as making energy, PowerTextiles shimmer in the slightest breeze, dislodging sand ensuring the highest efficiency. In future PowerTextiles could demonstrate to fair well in extreme climates, substituting desert PV fields with more beneficial solutions down town. PowerTextiles are durable and if they can continue to perform and endure rough treatment as they have demonstrated in the lab they may prove especially suitable for warmer climates. Energy where its needed Many of our SIN’s [Small Island Nations] pay huge extra over costs for energy and actively seek innovative renewable energy solutions like PowerTextiles. Unlike Silicon and Thin Film panels PowerTextiles can be simply rolled up or retracted in severe weather such as hurricanes and tropical storms. Extreme weather creates significant issues for renewable energy especially where its needed most wind turbines and rigid panels often demonstrate unusable in many circumstances. PowerTextiles can provide ideal and innovative solutions for SIN’s because they provide portable solutions and because they are capable of enduring loads which would normally cause widespread failure in other systems. PowerTextiles create shelter and energy, woven polyester can have significant strength and one that can often outperform rigid structures this phenomenon has been well demonstrated for centuries on the sailing ships of our forefathers as well as in the desert And Finally Relief? The Photovoltaic Shelter means energy can be supplied for relief work it can go almost anywhere the sun shines [or not] and it has its functional uses after hours too because it is a shelter. PowerTextiles can provide relief and war theater solutions providing shelter and energy, even providing just enough energy to light or communicate even in unusual circumstances PowerTextiles provides shading for crops, they were originally developed to extend the soft fruit growing season in Scotland they can also provide electricity to pump water to grow more and better intense crops in dry, arid inhospitable conditions. PowerTextiles demonstrate to have a variety of uses to provide shelter, to nurture food production to improve agriculture where there is none, to achieve economically sustainable yields even in the most hostile environments. PowerTextiles can be folded, rolled and packed, they could be stitched or simply fastened together on the fly to make larger structures where they are most needed.  PowerTextiles are lightweight easily transported and generic in use. Where do PowerTextiles figure in the evolution of PV? Mainstream Photo Voltaic’s are traditionally applied to hard materials such as silicon wafers, these wafers have PV materials applied to them by deposition at temperatures of 400 degrees Celsius and more, they are made conductive to become PV cells. With many PV cells strung together they are encapsulated between glass, plastics and other sheet materials glued together in a laminated layer they form a PV panel. Recently technology has brought about much innovation in PV. One such innovation is thin film technology. Thin films are PV cells just like silicon wafers however often one twentieth the thickness of silicon wafers. Being so slender thin film cell substrates are flexible by nature and once encapsulated in plastics they can find their niche applied to flexible surfaces and because they are encapsulated they are as pliable as the surfaces they are applied to. Thin film technology is ever evolving in efficiency but because this technology is PV applied to a host material they are limited in use, so much so BiPV and PV in hot climates is yet to be efficient, PowerTextiles is the next stage of evolution because PowerTextile is the host material, and unlike thin and rigid film application they can do what regular fabrics can do they can also become tensile structures and part of fixed building systems. PowerTextiles are the host material they are uncomplicated without lamination of glass and similar with a Polyester base they ultra low cost and yet can achieve extra ordinary value How efficient are PowerTextiles? The efficiency of PowerTextiles is on par with the best of thin films some years ago. PowerTextiles will evolve much faster in the next few years and as the process goes into manufacture PowerTextiles will no doubt catch up with other technologies. All PV technology have their scientific limits and its only a question of time and effort to reach full potential. PowerTextiles are not comparable with standard PV solutions because large PV panel installations are not very efficient in area. In the field 1MW of PowerTextiles requires almost equal surface area as 1MW rigid solar panels. PowerTextiles are fabric and lightweight they can be simply supported creating more efficient land use than any other PV solutions. One of the biggest disadvantages of rigid panels is they require a lot of framework, positioning and sub structure support. When can we expect PowerTextiles Solutions and How Much Will They Cost? For sure PowerTextiles are a fraction of the cost of regular PV, PowerTextiles are being developed as next level renewable energy solutions which do not need subsidies to make economic sense. At SOLIDEA Group we believe the best years of any energy subsidies are already over so PowerTextiles need perform beyond grid parity. All technologies can achieve lower costs, and this is one of the reasons for sure PowerTextiles could make rigid and panel PV installation systems obsolete in the near future. Standard PV solutions may hit rock bottom in cost soon however PowerTextiles potentially are a fraction of the cost delivering many times the value. A large retractable solar screen of lets say 1000 m2 over the glazed atrium of a shopping centre in Central Europe is more than 20 times more efficient than regular PV panels because of the energy it saves. PowerTextiles can also demonstrate being efficient stand alone renewable energy solutions without subsidies, even paying back within a few years in practically all applications. PowerTextiles are highly innovative a PowerTextiles tent as a car parking solution for a busy shopping centre in a hot country like Dubai can pay back in weeks, it can also contribute energy for reducing the Carbon Impact of the air conditioning system. SOLIDEA Group look forward to offering unique PowerTextile solutions especially in its EVE® Program now as a Stage THREE energy saving device and later as a Stage FOUR high performance energy offset device. SOLIDEA Group hope to manufacture PowerTextiles at its Green Industrial Park South East of Warsaw from 2015.