Advancements in Photovoltaic Fabrics

T. Dalland, R. Lerner, C. Touhey
Pvilion,
United States

Keywords: photovoltaic fabric, industrialization, next-generation, energy-harvesting, wearable technology

Summary:

The lightweight, flexible photovoltaic technology used for photovoltaic fabrics is advancing with the potential to become fully industrialized. To achieve standardized implementation of high-efficiency, low-cost photovoltaic fabric manufacturing and production, we propose three development pathways towards industrialization: advancing the technology of spray-on encapsulation and adhesion, advancing the process of roll-to-roll manufacturing, and advancing the process of making fabrics and photovoltaics customized for each photovoltaic fabric market. Currently, this process is impeded by the dominance of heavier, rigid silicon modules, which, with higher efficiency and lower costs, have relegated photovoltaic fabric designs to niche markets where the lowest cost per watt is not the only value. Despite this, the lightness and flexibility of photovoltaic fabrics offer unmatched versatility. Fabric manufacturing and production is industrialized, and research and development persist to find higher efficiency, lower cost photovoltaic cells. By optimizing and combining the processes of the energy and textile industries, photovoltaic fabric structures and products could tap into a variety of markets. For example, they can claim a larger portion of the 1.1 trillion dollars in sales of the international apparel market. Pvilion’s founders are well-acquainted with leading the engineering, architectural, and solar-electrical fields. Specializing in the development of photovoltaic fabrics, the Pvilion team has accomplished many “firsts” over their 20 year history, including photovoltaic fabric tents and tensile structures, a photovoltaic fabric line with Tommy Hilfiger, and many patents. With the expertise of Pvilion’s leaders, beautiful, lightweight, flexible, photovoltaic fabric structures and devices will expand the availability of clean and quiet power generation.