Flexible solar panels

A company in Germany (of course!) has invented flexible solar panels made from small, organic molecules on polyester films. They weigh a lot less than traditional solar panels, and they can generate just as much electricity! Solar energy is best collected in sunny and cloudy conditions.

Heliatek, the start-up company, has produced some proof-of-product demos, but they need a lot more money in order to build a larger (but still small) production factory. This little company needs a huge supply in order to make their product cost less. (Remember those good ol’ supply and demand laws you learned in macroeconomics? Here they are.) Currently, the flexible panels cost more than traditional panels, but as they sell more, and build a bigger factory, the cost of flexible panels could drop to 40-50 cents per watt!

A few other incentives for Europeans to start buying these panels

  • Builders won’t have to buy the heavy metal hardware to hold traditional solar panels.
  • The panels can be incorporated into concrete facades, not just windows.
  • Soon, policies in Europe will require buildings to produce as much electricity as they consume. (What!? That’s a great policy!)
  • They’re like tinted windows, only these ones produce energy.

It sounds like these will initially be sold to industries, not so much to individual consumers.

They need to become a little more efficient, but they have serious benefits to the future of solar power.

Heliatek’s complete panels (a panel is a collection of cells wired together) convert 8% of the energy in light into electricity (polymer solar panels are 3% to 5% efficient). Conventional silicon solar panels are 14 to 15% efficient, but the Heliatek technology’s good performance in low light  and high heat can make up for the lower efficiency.

Every little bit helps.

Thanks, Mashable, for this exciting story.