BioSolar Bio-Plastics in Solar Cells
One of the essential problems with solar power is the cost. Even with government subsidies and major growth, photovolatic energy is not cost competitive when compared to traditional power sources such as oil and coal. An element of photovoltaic costs is the materials used in the manufacturing process. Approximately 75 percent of the costs of solar cell comes from the sunlight-to-electricity converter. The remaining 25 percent is produced from manufactured packaging including petroleum-based plastics. These plastics are prisoners to the ever increasing cost of petroleum and add to environmental degradation that solar is seeking to remedy.
The problem is that most conventional bio-plastics are not suitable for use in solar cells. These renewable plant based materials posses a lower melting point and fragile molecular structure. The high temperature production of photovoltaics usually causes breakdowns or alterations in structure. Thus, one aspect of lowering costs in the solar industry and tackling the problem of down stream pollution is the creation of alternatives to petroleum-based plastics.
For an industry with an expected growth to $50 billion by 2020, there is a huge gap in the market that needs to be filled. Enter BioSolar. BioSolar is a Santa Clarita, California based company that is the first anywhere to introduce a new dimension of cost reduction by replacing petroleum-based plastic solar cell components with durable bio-based materials. BioSolar was formed in 2006 by electrical engineer and current CEO Dr. David Lee. BioSolar, Inc. is a public company trading on the NASDAQ Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) market under the symbol "BSRC" or "BSRC.OB".
BioSolar is introducing their first product to challenge petroleum based products in solar cells. The revolutionary BioBacksheet is a 100% bio-based material that forms the bottom layer of most crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cells – a layer traditionally comprised of petroleum-based plastics. These Backsheets are expected to cost substantially less than their petroleum-based cousins, lowering costs of all solar projects.
This product comes from a new method in production for bioplastics, allowing them to withstand the processing temperature of solar cell manufacturing systems. BioSolar’s proprietary materials will also offer the durability and environmental characteristics of conventional petroleum-based plastics, such as electromagnetic properties, mechanical strength, dimensional stability, opacity and weatherability required by solar cell applications. The BioBacksheet is only one of a three product first phase for the company. BioSolar hopes to expand the use of this new bioplastics production method to create both cell superstrate and cell substrate. These are the layers of glass and plastic that lie above and below the actual solar cells.
These three products are not the end of BioSolar's innovation in photovoltaic, but merely the first stage in a two phase process. Once these first generation films enter production, then BioSolar will turn its energy towards finalizing a proprietary cellulose based biopolymer resins for non roll-to-roll applications.
And this strategy to revolutionize production materials in the solar industry all begins with the new patented backsheet. But it is just a beginning and it remain to be seen if these new bio-plastics will be utilized industry wide. With solar cell demand continuing to exceed supply for the foreseeable future (5 to 10 years), an expanding market is there for BioSolar’s bioplastic materials to exploit. If producers of solar cells can be open to new materials, something CEO Dr. David Lee and the rest of BioSolar is betting on, then renewable will not only be a description of the energy produced from a solar cell, but the solar cell itself.