Dr. Zhengrong Shi, an Australian businessman known as the “Sun King,” has introduced eArche, a super flexible, ultrathin solar panel that could stretch along building facades, atop buses, or on top of carports to charge electric cars. According to Shi, the panel has game-changing potential, and 40 kilowatts (kW) of the new technology has already been installed in three locations throughout Australia.
The eArche is made with a composite material similar to those used in airplane windows and is almost 80 percent lighter than conventional photovoltaic panels, according to RenewEconomy. Dr. Shi is marketing this new product through Australian company Energus and Hong Kong company SunMan.
The product has been in development for three years. Dr. Shi says the hard part was getting the right materials. They had to be transparent, durable, waterproof and flexible. He said there was also a ‘good thermal match’ between silicon and composites, which avoided cracking.
Dr. Shi says eArche panels will cost about the same as conventional panels, but will cost much less to install.
“Most of the cost reductions we have seen come from manufacturing, growing efficiency, and supply chain,” Dr. Shi told RenewableEnergy. “There has been very little innovation on products and applications, so we have decided to focus on the panel itself, which has been very rigid and heavy.”
The material itself is only 2-3mm thick, with the entire panel width measuring between 5.5mm and 6mm. They weigh around 6kg each, compared to more than 20kw for a conventional panel and can be transported at bulk – 1MW can fit in a 40′ container rather than just 200kW, saving on transport costs.
“We think governments should require all new buildings to have solar panels integrated into their structure. With this panel, it is easy to do,” Dr. Shi said. SunMan also envisions the technology on RVs, yachts, vending machines, and more.