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A Spanish company is developing a light, portable, foldable and easy-to-use modular solar generation systems for residential, commercial and small business environments. It consists of an array of modules, each comprising a self-supporting structure that includes a 2-axes solar tracking, and semi-flexible photovoltaic (PV) panels, and a compact box comprising inverter and battery. The company is looking for producers of high efficiency solar cells under manufacturing agreements.
As a start-up company from Spain created in 2017 its goal is to develop a modular solar generation system, which is currently in international patent-pending status. The system has evolved from a concept along several prototypes, actually in demonstration phase and being tested in real environmental conditions (TRL6). The current short term objective of the company is the completion of the final development phase and the market assessment of the system, followed by the design of the manufacturing process and the certification for its commercialization. The company is looking for companies who can provide them with high efficiency solar cells, as well as Lithium (LiFePO4) batteries suitable for adaptation into their products under a manufacturing agreement.
Regarding its overall components it consists in an array of modules each comprising a self-supporting structure and semi-flexible PV panels and a compact box comprising and inverter and a performant battery.
Its modular design is its most innovative element and comprises on the one hand a portable self-supporting structure that incorporates a 2-axes solar tracking system highly accurate and affordable, and on the other a specifically designed PV panel consisting in 4 subpanels based on semi-flexible solar cells. Both the structure and the panel are easily disassembled and folded in a compact volume that fits in a small suitcase for its transport.
The array of modules and the box shape the traditional architecture of a domestic solar electricity generation system that can be fed either from the generation components (PV panels or battery) or from the grid. With this general approach the system can be used in all available operation modes from offgrid self-consumption installations to on-grid ones depending on user needs and regulatory conditions.
The main advantages are:
- Easy to use: each module is easily disassembled by the user using simple tools and the resulting elements are folded in a small volume that fits in a suitcase for its transport.
- Accurate and highly performant: the structure incorporates an accurate 2-axes sun tracking system allowing an increase in performance around 50%.
- Portable: the light and stable structure (made of plastic) and the light semi-flexible panels make the module portable and therefore very easy to move even in operation; this characteristic makes the system compatible with transitable spaces (gardens, terraces).
- Low cost: both the structure, made of plastic, and the solar tracker, whose components are all “off-theshelf” will be low cost; the rest of the elements in the system are procured externally but their prices are decreasing.
Solar energy generation systems for domestic use represent a global and relatively new market with numerous competitors in the form of small companies distributing and installing them. It has become an incipient business. After some tests an analyses performed with some of these commercial systems three main issues and inconveniences are identified:
- Low quality kits end up being almost useless due to the poor efficiencies reached.
- The performance of PV panels is reduced by shadows and a non perpendicular sun orientation.
- The system as a whole is heavy and difficult to assemble and professional support is mandatory. In line with this difficulty any chance for temporary uses in different destinations is simply unthinkable
The system addresses these issues the following way:
- First, it is a modular solar generation system and all its elements are the highest quality available in the market.
- The second issue is addressed in a very innovative way by incorporating on the one hand a portable self-supporting structure easy to move in operation to avoid shadows, and on the other an affordable and accurate 2-axes solar tracker that increases panel performances in averages around 50%.
- Regarding the third point the system has been designed with light materials (plastic structure and light semi-flexible panels) and with an easy-to-use goal. Each module is easily disassembled and folded in a small volume that fits in a compact suitcase for its transport. The assembling of the modules and the interconnection of all the elements in the system are easily made by the user using simple tools.
Photovoltaic Solar systems development. Solar cells manufacturing. Batteries and inverters knowledge.Prototyping techniques, small batch production capacities, knowledge of light materials for structural devices manufacturing processes.
The project is in demonstration phase currently being tested in real environmental conditions (TRL6) with advanced prototypes of 2 modular models of 100W and 150W each. As a result of these first field tests many important aspects have been validated and some technical challenges are identified to be addressed in next development phase. After this next step a preliminary version of the system will be ready for a first round of tests by early adopters.
The module of the system is currently in national patent request phase. The patent application date is 16 Feb 2017 and it was formulated as an asset of the company. The application provides a 12 month priority period over third parties outside Spain. A technical state of the art report has recently been received with a positive evaluation stating that all patentability requirements are fulfilled.
The company is looking for producers of high efficiency solar cells, as well as Lithium (LiFePO4) batteries suppliers with customization capacity, under manufacturing agreements.
Regarding the market two main segments and sale channels are envisaged for the product. The first is through direct sales on the internet to end users (B2C) in kits of different powers. The second is through solar installers (B2B) for systems with more permanent use to complement their installations when roof space is limited but space in gardens and terraces
The company is now seeking potential suppliers with proved industrial capacity for some of the key elements of the system. Since the size of the panels is limited their manufacturing incorporating the highest efficiency solar cells to be assembled in light multilayer panels is of particular interest.
The current models of the panels are designed using Sunpower solar cells reaching 20% efficiency. Manufacturers of solar cells reaching higher efficiencies will be priviledged.
Other areas also of high importance are the battery and the inverter. Regarding the inverter some commercial solutions with very good results are still under test. The battery that requires lightness, durability, high cycle efficiency, high energy concentration and discharge capacity. The current technology under test regarding the battery is lithium (LiFePO4) due to its lightness, durability, high cycle efficiency, high energy concentration and discharge capacity.
All these requirements are key for a portable system. Manufacturers incorporating battery management systems (BMS) that better optimise all these specifications are particulary sought.