Solar films could be the flexible and adaptable future of solar power

Heliatek HeliaSol Flexible Solar Film
HeliaSol is an ultra-light, flexible, ultra thin solar film that can easily be glued to various surfaces and, with its solar connectors, connected to a solar system. Images courtesy Heliatek

The quest for renewable energy has led to the emergence of solar films as a promising alternative to traditional solar panels. This innovation is rapidly gaining traction in Europe, with companies like Heliatek (Germany) and Solar Cloth (France) at the forefront. Unlike conventional solar panels, solar films offer a level of flexibility and adaptability that was previously unattainable, marking a significant leap in solar technology.

Heliatek’s HeliaSol and HeliaFilm

Heliatek, a German brand established in 2017, introduced HeliaSol, an ultra-thin, flexible solar film resembling a sticker. This product is easy to install and is suitable for a wide range of surfaces, including schools and wind turbine facilities. It can generate up to 85 watts per square meter and boasts a remarkably low carbon footprint of less than 10g CO2e/kWh.

HeliaSol utilizes organic photovoltaics (OPV) technology, where light is transformed into electricity via semiconducting materials. The total thickness of the organic stack is less than a thousandth of a millimeter, contributing to the film’s unique properties.

Following HeliaSol, Heliatek also released HeliaFilm, a stick-on roll of film that can adhere to diverse surfaces like glass, concrete, and metal. The company is exploring innovative applications for HeliaFilm, particularly in glass integration, by experimenting with color and transparency variations. HeliaFilm is poised to revolutionize glass products by adding a solar function, thereby contributing to energy generation and heat reflection in buildings.

Heliatek HeliaFilm Ultra-thin Solar Film Glass Integration
HeliaFilm adds solar power and heat reduction to glass, fitting seamlessly between panes in various sizes.

Solar Cloth’s M170 solar film

Solar Cloth, a French company, has developed the M170 solar film, a 0.5mm thick product capable of generating 170 watts per square meter. The M170 uses CIGS (Copper, Indium, Gallium, and Selenium) technology, known for its high efficiency and use of recycled materials. This technology has enabled Solar Cloth to achieve a 17.2% yield on a roll-up textile base, signaling a significant advancement in photovoltaic textiles. The M170’s adaptability to various surfaces, including rounded ones, makes it a versatile solution for diverse applications.

Solar Cloth M170 Solar Film
Solar Cloth’s M170 solar film is a thin, efficient 170W/sqm energy producer using eco-friendly CIGS technology. Image courtesy Solar Cloth

Environmental impact and efficiency

Solar films represent a greener alternative to traditional solar solutions. HeliaSol, for example, is considerably greener than conventional silicon-based solar modules, with a carbon footprint of less than 10 g CO2e per kilowatt-hour. This makes it a far more sustainable option compared to traditional energy sources like coal. The use of organic materials and recycled components in solar films further enhances their environmental credentials.

Installation and applications

The ease of installation is a key advantage of solar films. HeliaSol, for instance, can be applied to various materials, including metal, concrete, and glass, in just a few simple steps. The integrated backside adhesive and junction box with cables simplify the installation process, which can be completed in a few hours. This ease of installation, combined with the films’ flexibility, opens up numerous possibilities for retrofitting buildings and integrating solar solutions into structures where traditional panels are impractical.

Heliatek HeliaSol Flexible Solar Film Retrofitting Buildings
HeliaSol is ideal for adding solar power to buildings with weight or structural limits, working well on roofs and façades where traditional panels can’t.

Potential and future developments

The untapped potential for solar electricity generation using solar films is immense. Surfaces previously unsuitable for solar panels, such as buildings with low static load-bearing capacity, curved surfaces, or materials that should not be penetrated, can now be utilized for energy generation. Heliatek aims to transform every building into a net-zero energy structure, self-powered by clean energy.

The future of solar films also includes further advancements in glass integration. With millions of window units installed globally each year, the opportunity for incorporating solar films into glass products is vast. This integration not only generates electricity but also reduces heat build-up in buildings, offering a multifunctional solution.

Pricing information

Heliatek HeliaFilm Ultra-thin Solar Film
HeliaFilm is an organic solar film, designed to enhance various materials like glass and metal, offering innovative solutions for building façades and roofs.

Currently, specific pricing information for HeliaSol, HeliaFilm, and the M170 solar film is not publicly available. The cost of these innovative solar solutions would likely depend on the scale of the installation and the specific requirements of the project. Prospective users are encouraged to contact the respective companies for detailed pricing information based on their unique needs.

Conclusion

Solar films are paving the way for a more adaptable, efficient, and environmentally friendly future in solar energy. With their flexibility, ease of installation, and reduced carbon footprint, these films are set to transform the way we harness solar power, making it accessible to a broader range of applications and structures. As technology advances, we can expect solar films to play an increasingly significant role in our pursuit of sustainable and renewable energy sources.

Source: Heliatek and Solar Cloth