Violet Power, an Oregon-based startup, aims to build the first integrated PV factory on American soil. More so, Violet Power also claims to back their product with a 50-year warranty, which is 20 to 25 more years of warranty then the current industry standard. These solar panels may also include aluminum, instead of copper and silver, to make their prices more affordable. The word about Violet Power shows a transition towards American leadership concerning solar panels and solar energy.
About Violet Power
Violet Power is an Oregon-based startup. It plans to build the first integrated PV factory in the US, allowing it to produce both solar components and finished solar panels. This is different from other solar companies in America, which rely on overseas manufacturing and production.
As of July 9th, Violet Power will aim to fulfill nearly half of the nation’s demand for solar panels after the factory is built and up and running. As a result, Violet Power aims to start producing solar panels in 2021 and reach 5 gigawatts annually by 2026.
Violet Power And REC Solar
Violet Power is currently negotiating with a Norwegian company REC Solar. REC Solar is a solar facility in Moses Lake, Washington that produces silicon gas through its subsidiary. Violet Power aims to locate its factory across the street from the REC Silicon subsidiary to gain access to the raw material at a more affordable price.
However, this plan may not go through since REC is currently surrounded by a major trade war. This causes them to receive a large tax bill, as well as other penalties attributed to the trade war. For the deal with Violet Power to be solidified, REC Solar may want to sort out the trade war, but this is still to be determined.
Violet Power’s 50-Year Guarantee
Charlie Gray, the former chief of the Energy Department’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, signed on as the CEO at Violet Power. As the CEO, Gay made a 50-year warranty pledge, meaning that the Violet Power solar panels would include a 50-year warranty, nearly double the current industry standards.
Although a 50-year warranty may not sound like a lot given how many products get a Lifetime Warranty, the current industry standard is only 25 to 30 years. Furthermore, most household appliances and HVAC systems barely work past 15 to 20 years without repair or replacement. So, the current solar panel warranty is already impressive, but Violet Power’s is even more so.
Solar Panel Efficiency
What is unclear about Violet Power’s 50-year warranty is how efficiency is grouped into the plan. Under normal circumstances, the lifespan of a solar panel typically refers to the optimal lifespan. That is, how long a solar panel can produce energy at its most optimal efficiency. Over the years, however, the efficiency of the solar panel decreases, thus ending the optimal lifespan. Even after the optimal lifespan has ended, solar panels can still produce clean energy, just not as efficiently as before.
Violet Power has not stated exactly how efficient its solar panels will be. More so, they are unclear as to whether or not the 50-year warranty considers efficiency loss over the years. Based on the long warranty, either the panels are more efficient than current models, perhaps lasting as long as 75 years, or the warranty accounts for the efficiency decrease.
Violet Power’s Partnership With SunFlex Solar
According to SP Global, Violet Power has selected SunFlex Solar to partner in the manufacturing venture. According to the report, SunFlex has cut costs by using aluminum in their solar panels in the interdigitating back-content (IBC).
In short, IBC is the electrical contacts for the solar cells located at the back of the solar panel. The purpose of the IBC is to increase efficiency by decreasing shade on the front of the panel where the sunlight is captured.
Unfortunately, although the IBC increases efficiency, it also increases the cost of solar panels. Currently, most solar panels within the IBC category used silver and copper, which make the models highly expensive.
Aluminum In IBC Increases Efficiency And Decreases Cost
SunFlex, however, has started to use aluminum in place of silver and copper within the IBC. This aluminum venture has decreased costs while still increasing output and efficiency.
“This team is replacing the high-cost copper backsheets on standard back-contacted silicon solar cells with aluminum, which costs less,” noted the company’s Energy Department. “They will use a high-speed laser to weld the aluminum backsheet to the silicon wafer. The team has secured a path to manufacture this technology domestically to produce high-efficiency, cost-competitive solar modules.”
In fact, the company’s co-founder Kate Fisher even explained that the panels can boost output by 6%. Although 6% may not sound like a lot, it is a large increase when you consider other financial factors like administration, marketing, shipping, and labor. If you increase the efficiency of a model, you can make smaller panels. With smaller panels, you can decrease shipping, manufacturing, materials, etc., thereby decreasing the cost.
At the same time, using aluminum decreases the cost of the hardware too. The reason for this is that aluminum is much more affordable than copper and silver. As a result, the choice to use aluminum within the solar panels is ingenious because it cuts both cost for the hardware, as well as the cost for the manufacturing, upkeep, and more.
Fisher explains, “Our actual innovation is how the aluminum is integrated into the panel. In particular, we emboss the aluminum foil to form busbars that make electrical contact with the back of IBC solar cells. Then we weld these busbars to the cells with a laser, resulting in a robust interconnection.”
The decreased cost of the solar panels, matched by the 50-year warranty, makes this manufacturer theoretically one of the most cost-efficient options on the market, which may lead to more people seeing solar panels as a realistic option for their family and home.
In addition to the other negotiations, Violet Power is supposedly leveraging the new zebra IBC solar cell technology. This technology was developed at the Solar Energy Research Center Konstanz in Germany. With that being said, it is unclear exactly how this technology is going to be used within Violet Power’s products.
Within the last month, America has undergone a series of climate change crises: one on the West Coast and another on the Gulf Coast. The wildfires in California, as well as the Hurricanes in the East, show an absolute need for leadership in America concerning solar energy during this climate crisis.
Hopefully, Violet Power will set the stage for a new American leadership, which results in a major shift towards climate-friendly manufacturing and change. More so, hopefully companies such as these will lead to continued improvement for solar panels and solar energy, so that way we can further maximize the efficiency and usefulness of eco-friendly energy options, such as solar power.
Although it will take several years to see a true benefit from Violet Power, and hopefully other companies inspired by the Oregon startup, this is a great shift that should spark hope and inspiration for others.