aha! Ideas & News

Sustainability

Flexible Light Weight Solar Fabric

A new startup, the Solar Cloth Company, has developed a lightweight solar cell “cloth” that can be used to “cheaply” and easily harness solar energy while stretched across sports stadiums, parking lots, etc, as per recent reports.  Based out of Cambridge, England the Solar Cloth Company states that it is currently working to close deals that would see the solar cloth installed on over 27,000 parking lots across the UK.

The company’s founder, Perry Carroll, stated: “We have built a growing sales pipeline worth £4.2m (about $6.57 million) for 2015, including park and ride projects, airport parking operators and retail park owners.”

As per the company’s calculations, there’s around 320 square miles of roof space, and 135 square miles of parking space, in the region that could easily and cheaply be covered with the solar cloth — which could provide enough electricity to power the UK’s grid three times over. (Author’s note: Clearly these calculations don’t deal with the issues of intermittency, weather, etc.).  Some details on the solar cloth: an approximately 10 square-meter piece of the cloth weighs around 7.3 pounds, which is a lot less than conventional solar panels (35-48 lbs for the same space). The material is also quite flexible — opening the door to uses in situations where traditional panels wouldn’t be considered.

“One of the main hindrances to solar panel adoption is that they can be difficult to install and integrate with existing architecture functionally and aesthetically,” stated Hans Haenlein, adviser to The Solar Cloth Company. “Flexible solar cloth overcomes all of these problems and can add real value to existing and upcoming sites.” It seems that the cloth would overcome some functionality problems, but aesthetics are certainly more subjective.  The Solar Cloth Company web site with a You Tube video