By Danny Fielding
Solar energy is one of the most bountiful and readily available sustainable resources we have. The sun already directly and indirectly powers every aspect of our lives. Sunlight, or photons, are constantly falling upon our Earth. I am certainly not discrediting geo-thermal, tidal, wind, or any other renewable resource. It’s just that it’s hard to argue with the many benefits solar power has.
Much of the news being released regarding solar panels consists of improving the efficiency of the solar collection/energy conversion process. These are much needed improvements to the way we use renewable resources. Despite the benefits these breakthroughs yield, it’s also important not to overlook the seemingly simple solutions to our problems.
The problem with current solar panel encapsulants (covers, films, etc.), is that they begin to diminish in efficiency after extended periods of extreme temperature variations and normal wear-and-tear. This can happen for many reasons: difficulty in manufacturing the material, expansion/contraction of materials due to temperature shifts, as well as a relatively high level of light refraction.
Recently the CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, announced a new polyolefin film, or encapsulant, produced under the name ENLIGHT. This development might not have some of you as excited as you should be. Most people would think that the ENLIGHT encapsulant might seem like little more than a glorified plastic film. Keep reading to find out why you’d be wrong.
After thousands of hours of use, the protective film on a solar panel can start to degrade, lowering efficiency and causing operation issues.
The ENLIGHT polyolefin encapsulant film addresses many of these issues, without requiring any other component of the panel to be altered. The film is more flexible than traditional EVA (Ethyl-Vinyl Acetate) encapsulants. There is a much lower water vapor transmission rate, and the film can be applied without compromising the integrity of the solar cell.
The big picture here is that many people are concerned with seeing a return on investment with solar panels; the moment where the amount of electricity generated outweighs their operating and installation costs. The standard today lies somewhere between 5 and 7 years, depending on where you live, the type and size of the installation you’re working with, and any federal and state subsidiaries or tax write-offs. This development will protect that investment by ensuring lower maintenance costs and a longer operating life. This will mean renewable energy via solar collection is going to be a more viable option for thousands of people out there.
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