November 10 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2010 Rating: 7 Hot
Michigan-based ECD Ovonic solar subsidiary Uni-Solar has signed a multi-year agreement with an Italian steel and metal materials company to build solar rooftop materials used in onsite power generation. Marcegaglia expects to introduce the low cost, durable thin film solar metal roofing products to the market in 2010. [Image shown from Spain factory installation]
Why is this important to the future of energy?
Energy entrepreneurs are thinking beyond power generation via large, expensive centralized power plants. The alternative is expanding the world’s capacity for ‘distributed power generation’ based on low cost solar, micro-wind, fuel cells, and micro turbines. These systems could soon provide a small percentage of power generation, but enough to reduce demand on power plants during ‘peak power demand’ periods, and lower our threat of grid failure by storing and producing energy at the local level. Why not tap square footage of rooftops?
Thin film solar based on plastic substrates are less efficient than traditional glass-based photovoltaic panels, but they are much cheaper and more durable. By layering, or ‘printing’, thin film solar modules onto rooftop materials we can bring solar power to buildings around the world at a low cost.
What to watch
The next 18 months could be a critical period for the global thin film solar industry. Big bets are being placed by startups and incumbents who believe that scaling thin film solar manufacturing is now cost effective. (See manufacturing announcements below) The next step is to focus on market absorption via strategic partnerships with building material companies that have distribution channels to push cleantech building material alternatives.
That ECD Ovonics is based in Michigan is significant for the US cleantech sector. Midwest economic development leaders are desperately trying to retool its manufacturing base from a ‘Rust Belt’ into a ‘Green Belt’ around polymer-based energy materials.
Image – Unisolar Rooftop in Spain
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