Solar energy system loses weight with composite frames

Dutch firm TULiPPS Solar BV has developed a photovoltaic module that is larger than industry-standard systems, but is tougher, more efficient and weighs the same as smaller aluminum-framed systems.

Related Topics:

While building beta prototypes of its new COSMOS photovoltaic (PV) modules for independent-laboratory testing, TULiPPS Solar BV (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) owner and inventor Paul Stassen decided to try something new: Build a 500 watt-peak (Wp)/120-cell unit that is 60 percent larger than industry-standard 280 Wp/72-cell modules, but is tougher, more efficient and weighs the same as smaller, conventional aluminum-framed systems.

This was possible thanks to TULiPPS’s patent-pending, lightweight underbody module technology, which uses automotive-grade composites and design techniques plus special thin, 2-mm solar glass from Ducatt NV (Lommel, Belgium) to solve numerous issues with conventional roof-mounted PV modules.

TULiPPS’s standard 72-cell and 120-cell COSMOS modules reduce weight, production costs, installation time and maintenance for roof- or ground-mounted solar arrays while also increasing break resistance, light transmittance and energy-generating efficiency per unit area.

As Stassen explains, “Our new larger 120-cell modules are the same height and weight as standard aluminum-framed 72-cell units, but they are 60 percent wider. This weight savings is a huge innovation – particularly for roof-mounted solar arrays where weight can be an issue and where you want to pack as many modules into the available space as possible to maximize energy-generating capacity and shorten return on investment. Our new larger unit is the equivalent of putting 10 pounds of PV technology into a 5-pound module.”

Key to the success of the COSMOS system is the combination of tough automotive-grade composites, an integral frame and support system with plug-and-play functionality, a proven roof-anchor system that does not penetrate the roof membrane, and Ducatt’s special thin PV glass, which provides industry’s highest light transparency (95 percent vs. 91 percent achieved with thicker low-iron solar glass) and therefore offers greater energy conversion per unit area.

When the 500 Wp units become commercially available next year, they will be industry’s largest standard PV module at 1.98 by 164m/6.5 by 5.4 ft, and also industry’s largest-capacity standard PV module. Currently, working prototypes are being evaluated for durability by an independent PV testing laboratory in Europe (along with TULiPPS’ standard 72-cell units) and are expected to be commercial-ready in 2012.