Sexy solar products20. October 2011 By: Jonathan Gifford, pv magazine
They can have sleek smooth lines and glistening surfaces. They can be cool at times and hot to the touch at others. Embracing modernity, they have a look that speaks of the future yet embraces a fundamental nature that is primal and pure. In short, solar can be sexy.
Solar modules and equipment may have had a nerdy past - let’s admit it, there’s nothing cool about semiconductors - but as “green” becomes the new "black", photovoltaics may be accepted as the new sexy consumer item.
And when you look at it, it shouldn’t be surprising. It’s been going on for quite a while, consumer goods being described as sexy. The sleek look and feel of a piece of personal computing, the tactile pleasures of the latest cell phone and cars, when done well, speak sex as their second language.
But when it comes to solar, the sexiness doesn’t have to stop at rooftop modules. While the possibilities with BIPV for architects to sex-up their installations are endless, even utility-scale or large-commercial photovoltaic arrays can bring a sleek elegance to the most aesthetically dire of spaces.
That’s certainly what Conergy thinks anyway. It believes that large installations are the best way for companies to wear their green credentials on their sleeves. "Solar energy parks are sort of like a red-carpet runway dress for a building," says Conergy’s Jessica Fishman. She continues: "Putting a solar park up on a roof or in a field next to the building adds color and style to many ‘plain-Jane’ buildings."
And when it comes to module manufacturers themselves, they’re certainly not backward in coming forward to make their claim for having the sexiest solar panels.
Silicon giant Suntech, having just racked up five gigawatts (GW) worth of cumulative production, believes that size does matter. Björn Emde, Communications Manager for Suntech Europe dives headlong into the debate: "At Suntech, we don’t think the thinner the better when it comes to silicon - and customers seem to agree."
Emde adds, revealing that the Chinese manufacturer may be a traditionalist at heart: "Suntech modules believe in making real commitments and in making their owners happy through energetic but reliable long-term relationships."
But First Solar isn’t going to take the jab about thin film lying down. They believe that their modules represent the, "Black Beauty" of solar and believe that there is a complexity in their reflection that is truly alluring.
First Solar’s Brandon Mitchener explains: "I'd say First Solar modules are beautiful because they reflect the sky and the sun, alternatively black, blue, gray, white or pink depending on the weather." Going for a more sophisticated clientele, he also added that First Solar’s modules’ "subtle pinstripes add a touch of class."
The sexiness doesn’t have to stop with what’s up front, believes junction box manufacturer FPE Fischer. Managing Director Thomas E. Hoffmeister – no need to sex that name up! – believes that being made of aluminum rather than plastic, their junction boxes are sexy by their very nature. "To be different is to be sexy," he explains, "cool aluminum junction boxes deliver safer modules." And the safe-sex message is one we all hear loud and clear.
Thin-film manufacturer Solar Frontier clearly believes that looks matter. "Solar Frontier CIS panels don't only look sexier with their award-winning all-black matte appearance, they also perform better too. These thin, sleek panels have a real passion for light, soaking up more of it across a wider spectrum."
To wind up our look at sexy solar components, the Japanese manufacturer concludes that its important to keep your cool when the heat is on: "Even when things get hot, they stay cool and just keep on going."
Sticking around for breakfast however, is another matter.
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