Origami Solar develops light steel frames for solar modules


From pv magazine USA

Oregon-based Origami Solar won the grand prize in the US Department of Energy’s American-Made Solar Prize 2022 competition. The patent-pending steel frame is said to lower costs and improve module performance. The company says the frames are made of “green” recycled steel.

Origami Solar was founded by Eric Hafter and Jack Patton to try to bring innovation and cost reduction to solar module production. The founders noticed that in 20 years, the cost of other module components had come down, but not that of the aluminum frames, which had become a significant part of the cost.

Hafter and Patton were also concerned about the greenhouse gases that result from aluminum manufacturing, so instead they looked at recycled steel. According to Origami Solar, using aluminum for module frames contributes more than ten times the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than its steel frames. The company said emissions are 14 kg of per 1 kg of aluminum, whereas steel production results in about 1.2 kg of GHGs for every 1 kg of steel. Recycled steel produces even less GHGs.

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“Our Gen 2 frames are lighter, stronger and ideally suited to provide superior support to the new large-format modules coming to market,” said Gregg Patterson, CEO of Origami Solar. “In collaboration with steelmakers and precision roll formers, we have designed the Origami steel module frame to match the fit, form and function of industry-standard frames, making the transition from aluminum to steel seamless for module manufacturing and field installation.”

After working on the process for 12 years, Origami Solar developed a patent-pending frame design that is manufacturable using a steel roll forming process. The company reports that the frames meet structural requirements and have a projected module lifespan of 30 years.

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