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TUESDAY 24 MARCH, 2009 | RSS Feed

A Greener Solar Panel


by Energy Matters

Bioplastics in solar cells
While solar power provides one of the most earth friendly ways of generating electricity from renewable energy sources and a solar panel will work for decades; requiring little maintenance and no replacement of parts during that time; the panel still has to be made from something.

Even though the energy payback time, that is the length of time it takes for the panel to generate the same amount of energy that went into creating it, can be as little as 18 months; there are components of a solar panel that have their origins in fossil fuels or require a great amount of energy to be produced. By refining these products, a "greener" solar panel can be made, without adding to the cost.

A finished polycrystalline or monocrystalline solar module is encapsulated between a superstrate layer on the top and a backsheet layer on the bottom. The superstrate is usually made of glass, and the backsheet is made of mylar or tedlar plastics. In the case of thin film solar panels, even more plastics may be used in order to maintain flexibility.

A company named BioSolar is in the process of developing a line of environmentally friendly materials rugged enough to take the place of glass and crude oil based solar panel components. Their BioPlastic compound is a cellulosic film combined with a highly water resistant and high dielectric strength nylon film made from castor beans that the company says will resist decades of exposure to sometimes harsh weather conditions. The company estimates that using BioSolar Backsheets can reduce cost by 50% over traditional backsheet materials used in solar panels.



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