by Liza Farr
After seven years of research and development, Perry Carroll’s Solar Cloth Company is putting its lightweight, flexible solar panels on the market (Solar Cloth Company). While sailing his yacht in the Atlantic Ocean, he was inspired to combine solar energy and fabric to enable solar power to cover more types of structures (Hickey, Mar 22, 2015). The new type of panel can be rolled and fitted on curved structures, as well as roofs that are not able to sustain the weight of glass panels (Hickey, Mar 22, 2015). The thin film photovoltaic is being called the second generation of solar technology (Hickey, Mar 22, 2015). The panels are 20 percent of the weight of standard panels, but also produce 15 percent less power and cost twice as much (Hickey, Mar 22, 2015). One parking lot cover, for example, costs $19,000 (Hickey, Mar 22, 2015). Perry assesses the economic viability of the product based on opening new markets with new siting possibilities for solar panels.
The company is marketing these panels for non-load bearing roofs and car parking structures, as well as for data centers, super markets, and warehouses (Solar Cloth Company). According to the Solar Cloth Company, there are 834 million square meters of non-load bearing roofing and 353 million square meters of car parking in the United Kingdom alone. These two potential markets are valued at $250 billion and $100 billion respectively (Solar Cloth Company). Much of the United Kingdom factories are also potential sites for the solar rolls, and they account for 13 percent of national energy consumption, making these panels a way to significantly reduce carbon emissions (Hickey, Mar 22, 2015). The company has already received over $1 million in orders (Hickey, Mar 22, 2015). However, investors were hesitant to fund the new technology, so the company crowd-funded $1.5 million (Hickey, Mar 22, 2015). Perry is a strong advocate for more research and development into solar energy in general in the United Kingdom (Hickey, Mar 22, 2015). Additional funding for his own research and development, as well as rising electricity prices will likely make the product more successful moving forward. If all else fails, Perry has a backup plan to make solar underpants. He made one pair for a Japanese businessman who gave them to his boss with the note “I told you the sun shone out of my backside” (Burn-Callander, Dec 6 2014).
Burn-Vallander, Rebecca. New solar ‘cloth’ to turn UK rooftops into batteries. December 6, 2014. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businessclub/technology/11274131/New-solar-cloth-to-turn-UK-rooftops-into-batteries.html].
Hickey, Shane. Solar Sails Set Course for a New Journey into Renewable Energy. March 22, 2015. [http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/mar/22/solar-sails-set-course-for-a-new-journey-into-renewable-energy]
The Solar Cloth Company [http://www.thesolarclothcompany.com]