Sunman opens 1GW lightweight PV module factory


Lightweight-solar pioneer Sunman Energy has opened a new, 1GW production facility in Yangzhong City, in the Jiangsu province of China. The innovative solar tech company, founded and chaired by “Sun King” Dr. Zhengrong Shi, has touted what it calls the world’s largest production facility for lightweight solar PV.

Sunman Energy specializes in lightweight crystalline modules which use polymer composite materials instead of glass. Whereas most conventional solar panels weigh at least 20kg/m2, Sunman's eArche modules shave the weight off rooftop installations to around 5kg/m2.

The company’s latest product, the eArc SMF430F module, launched in October, is bigger than previous devices and weighs in at 11.2kg. Unlike glass modules, the eArc is akin to a flexible “solar skin” 70% lighter and up to 95% thinner than conventional products of the same wattage.

Sunman says its panels can be bonded directly to roofs, no matter their shape or curves, using structural-grade silicon, which also eliminates the risk of water penetration that can plague traditional solar mounting systems. The modules are based on standard half-cut monocrystalline PERC cells and are available in framed and non-framed versions.

Sunman founder and CEO Shi previously founded one-time giant Suntech, a company that revolutionized solar cell and module production, and acted as Suntech chairman and CEO until 2013. Before that, Shi had received a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, where he studied under scientia professor Martin Green – “the father of photovoltaics.”

Green prepared a video message of congratulations for the launch of Sunman's 1GW factory. He looked back on the company’s projects in Australia he has been involved with, including Byron Bay’s solar train and a 235kW solar installation unveiled at the Australian National Maritime Museum’s heritage center. Another showcase of Sunman technology in Australia is a 72.5kW curved-roof solar installation on the Noosaville Library in Queensland. “There is clearly a large market out there for this new product and I wish all those involved every success in the future,” Green said in the video message.

Shi told pv magazine in 2019 his company’s production capacity stood at 100MW. According to recent media reports, the 1GW factory will be commissioned in two phases, with the first already operational and the second due to come online mid-year. In addition to the production base, the facility will also incorporate R&D and testing centers and composite material production lines.

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