Installing clean, reliable, inflation-proof solar power is easier than ever, thanks to the invention of thin-film photovoltaic (PV) laminates that can be bonded directly onto metal roofing panels. Unlike crystalline PV material, there’s no need for obtrusive racks and heavy, expensive glass. Instead, unbreakable thin-film PV is produced using amorphous silicon, encapsulated in Teflon and other polymers.
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Thanks to pioneering work by Steve Heckeroth, a Mother Earth News contributing editor and the director of building-integrated photovoltaics for Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) Ovonics, this thin-film PV is now available in easily shippable, 16-inch-wide rolls. It’s a peel-and-stick laminate. You just unroll the sheet, lay it faceup on a flat metal roofing panel and press it onto the panel while your assistant pulls the protective sheet off the sticky backing.
Invented by ECD Ovonics co-founder Stan Ovshinsky, thin-film laminates offer several advantages over crystalline PV panels. (See Meet Stan Ovshinsky, the Energy Genius for a profile of Ovshinsky and his remarkable renewable energy inventions.) Thin-film sheets perform better in high temperatures and in partly shaded conditions, and they require 100 times less silicon, which means thin-film PV is expected to become less expensive than crystalline as production capacity expands over the next few years.