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Lightweight, flexible solar panels may be more efficient than competitors’

A California-based solar energy company called Sunflare is offering solar panels it hopes will help innovate the industry. After years of research and development, Sunflare says it’s the first company to successfully mass produced light, flexible, and affordable copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar panels that can be installed with ease on practically any surface.

At long last, the cost of generating solar energy is now equal to that of fossil fuels, according to a December report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

MoreCars in France are now tootling along the world’s first solar panel road

“Renewable energy has reached a tipping point,” Michael Drexler, head of Long Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development at the WEF, said in a statement. “Solar and wind have just become very competitive, and costs continue to fall. It is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns.”

In just a decade, solar costs sunk from around $600/MWh to $100/MWh, putting it on par with coal and natural gas. The report pins this achievement on gains in efficiency — solar panel costs compressed 80 percent since 2009 while their efficiency has grown from 15 to 22 percent.

Investment has poured into the market as manufacturers like Tesla/SolarCity innovate with solar panel shingles and Sunflare goes glass-free for a panel that’s 65 percent lighter and more efficient.

Sunflare solar panels are about twice the price of more traditional silicon solar panels, but since the flexible panels don’t require racks and are easier to install, the company calculates that the overall cost of its panels are about a cent cheaper. And it claims the manufacturing process is cleaner since it uses fewer chemicals while recycling materials and water. Lastly, it boasts that CIGS panels can function well in high temperatures and low light, meaning they can capture 10 percent more energy from dusk to dawn.

Bold claims and ones we hope prove true.