“The world is becoming increasingly connected, and cheap energy is needed wherever devices communicate with each other as for instance in Smart Cities. In the last 6 months we received more enquiries for IoT concepts that use photovoltaics as an economic energy source than in the complete previous year”, said OPES Solutions CEO Robert Händel in a presentation at PV Days Conference at Fraunhofer Institute in Halle, Germany. He expects the Smart City market, which will rely to some extend on solar power, to reach 5.6 Billion USD in 2022.
Examples of PV applications with IoT functions are sensors for buildings such as bridges, GPS tracking modules or solar street lamps with traffic sensors. In addition to its low cost, solar energy has another advantage over grid-connected energy supply: it is more reliable. While power grids can fail, especially in remote areas, solar modules in combination with suitable storage media provide a reliable power supply.
When comparing the market potential with the conventional ongrid business, OPES Solutions believes it makes sense to take a different approach, says Händel: “The total power required for IoT applications will of course remain low compared to the OnGrid market, but the number of modules can become very high. Applications will emerge that nobody thinks about today.”
In addition to the IoT market, the declining costs of small modules are also making applications more interesting again that previously had a niche existence due to their higher costs. These include solar roof tiles, for example.
OPES Solutions has developed modules whose properties make them particularly suitable for IoT applications. These include lightweight solar modules for applications such as vehicles or mobile solar water pumps, with a weight of only about 20 grams per watt. This corresponds to one third of the weight of conventional modules. In order to reduce the costs of the modules, the company uses specially developed production and test procedures.