A pre-laminate that combines ETFE frontsheet and EVA encapsulant, features all the performance benefits of both with improved production efficiencies, including reduced wrinkles and precise alignment. In addition, it can help module manufacturers achieve lower systems cost with reduced packaging and shipping costs.

PV Front Sheet Systems

Interview with Julia DiCorleto | Saint-Gobain Solar

Is solar power now considered a viable energy source?

Renewable energy has become a global priority, with solar power on the forefront as an increasingly viable solution to the world’s energy demand issues, generating sustainable power from a source readily available to everyone. Environmentally sound, reliable and maintenance-free, the conversion of solar energy into electricity is now being used in a variety of applications in the building, residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. 

How close to grid parity can photovoltaic module users actually get?

Photovoltaic (PV) module technology has progressed to the point where it is now able to supply a considerable portion of a building’s energy needs, paying off the initial capital investment and approaching grid parity – the point at which renewable electricity is equal to or cheaper than grid power.
This is the goal that the entire PV industry is working towards. In addition to module cost, grid parity depends on a number of additional variables, including geographical situation, price of grid electricity, insulation and government incentives. In fact, places such as the west coast of the US (CA, AZ) and parts of southern Europe are already extremely close to achieving grid parity—some might argue that they’ve already reached it. We can help realize this goal by further reducing the cost of PV, and improving module efficiency. Saint-Gobain Solar’s portfolio of fluoropolymer thin-film products not only increases PV module performance, but also helps decrease costs along the supply chain – from manufacturing to installation.

How can lightweight film products help manufacturers and end-users to reduce total systems cost?

Innovative thin film fluoropolymer technologies, such as ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) frontsheets, ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) encapsulants and combined prelaminates allow PV module manufacturers to deliver a lightweight, high-performance product. They provide higher light transmission than conventional materials, generating higher power output with the same number of modules. 
Combined ETFE/EVA frontsheet systems also provide users with unique cost savings, including lower packaging, shipping, and installation costs.
In addition, EVA encapsulant provides cushioning and structural support to solar cells and circuitry, while maximizing transmission of sunlight for energy conversion. With outstanding weathering properties, it protects the solar module throughout its lifecycle, increasing its useful product life.

Can lightweight PV modules provide cost savings that conventional modules cannot?

Lightweight modules can help manufacturers and user realize additional cost-savings along the supply chain. Lightweight PV modules mean reduced overall packaging and shipping costs due to their decreased size. Simply put, thinner gauge products require fewer packaging materials, fuel costs, and manpower. This is especially so with pre-lam products, such as ETFE/EVA frontsheet systems, which are basically two rolls in one, further reducing packaging, shipping costs and easier inventory management.
In addition, lightweight modules made with fluoropolymer film products can begin providing immediate value to PV module end-users. Lightweight modules are typically easier to install than their heavier counterparts made with conventional materials, requiring less time to put into action. 
Lightweight PV modules are also easier to install from a structural load standpoint, requiring little-to-no additional structural support.  Industrial buildings are designed with little residual structural capacity to leverage during installations of heavy modules. Hence, it requires structural improvements to the existing roofs to bear the additional weight of these modules. Changes to structural codes post 1997, require costly structural upgrades on buildings built earlier if they need to host the solar installations.  Lightweight panels, coming in at roughly half the weight of conventional modules, allow installation projects to be completed as efficiently as possible, without costly modification to rooftop support structures.

How efficient are fluoropolymer film products compared to conventional materials?  

ETFE frontsheets are more transparent than conventional materials, providing higher efficiency in frontsheet applications. We compared efficiency of modules made with ETFE and glass frontsheet. Both the 2mil and 5 mil ETFE frontsheet covered modules showed a comparative increase. Due to higher light transmission of the ETFE frontsheet, PV cells experience more light, resulting in higher generated power output. This higher efficiency would result in less number of modules required to achieve the same power output.

What are the benefits to choosing a pre-lam frontsheet system?

A pre-laminate that combines ETFE frontsheet and EVA encapsulant, features all the performance benefits of both with improved production efficiencies, including reduced wrinkles and precise alignment. In addition, it can help module manufacturers achieve lower systems cost with reduced packaging and shipping costs.  

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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