Lumeta: Peel and Stick Solar

I wanted to thank a reader for sending me the following YouTube link. This is very cool. A solar company called Lumeta – a subsidiary of California-based DRI Companies, has created a peel and stick solar panel. Watch just a bit of this video, as two men install 2.25 kilowatts in 34 minutes. Makes it look easy.

That could produce more than enough power for the average daily commute, but I couldn’t find any details on costs nor of panel efficiencies.

I am putting this up in a hurry, as I am in London today and tomorrow to talk about green technologies with a couple of groups. It will be later in the week before I have a chance to put anything else up.

21 thoughts on “Lumeta: Peel and Stick Solar”

  1. 12.8% efficient panels, not bad.
    I wonder what that roof is made of, and how much prep they had to do on it before sticking on the tiles.

  2. More gimic than anything. It looks like this application would only work with certain concrete panel or membrane type roof systems.

    The 34 minutes is a bit misleading. That was just to place the 6 solar panels and wire them up. It doesn’t include the time to install and wire the inverters, controllers or , make connections to the service panel.

    They really just saved the cost and time installing racks, but that is at the expense of efficiency. Unless this building is at the equator, a flat mount will never work as well as tilting the panels in the direction of the sun.

  3. There was a discussion about the Unisolar version of this product on the RE-Wrenches solar installer board about a month ago. General feedback was positive. In that thread, someone gave a list of approved roofing types for the Unisolar product:

    Approved Substrates and Suppliers:

    Approved substrate Approved vendors Comments
    GenFlex II EPDM, GenFlex FRM II, GenFlex AFR, GenFlex II FR EPDM, and
    GenFlex FRM-FR II
    Firestone Building Products: Standard RubberGard, Standard Reinforced
    RubberGard, FR RubberGard, Fire Retardant Reinforced RubberGard or
    LS-FR, 60 mil Firestone (GenFlex) EPDM meets ASTM 4637 Type 1,
    Grade 1, Class U
    GenFlex White TPO, GenFlex Gray TPO, GenFlex Charcoal Grey TPO, 60 mil
    Firestone (GenFlex)

    I’m not that interested in them for use in my own business but perhaps their bigggest plus is the lack of roof penetrations. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of rooftop solar, particularly flat roofs. As a result it is a big timesaver overall, as batteryless grid tie is becoming plug and chug as far as everything else goes.

    And anything that reduces the large amount of aluminum framing and racking currently needed is a big step in the right direction. As I rack panels I often wonder what the total aluminum requirement would be to get to even 5% solar production in the US, using today’s designs.

    A lot of commercial rooftop installations in California and southern US locales are flat or close to flat, it’s not as bad a tradeoff as you might think, looking at year round average production.

  4. I wonder yet if even cheaper prices are coming on solar. What seems to be on the market appears first-gen, or even custom. We are not yet to huge production runs of soalr panels in China. “China prices” should result in even cheaper panels. Also, I wonder if pnaels will become cheap enough that the sides of skyscrapers, factories etc could be covered with translucent panels.
    In general, it seems certain we will be able to generate lots of clean electricty in the years ahead, from solar, geothermal, wind, nukes — all independent of fossil fuels.
    So, the doomsday scenarios are simply wrong. If we go to PHEVs, the transportation problem is beaten.
    RR’s quick analysis is that the dinky solar panel in this youtube movie can produce enough power for a daily commute.
    Meanwhiule fossil oil production is hitting new records every month, as is biofuel output. U.S. oil consumption is dropping.
    The future may be brighter today than ever before.

  5. benny – those “dinky” solar panels are 4′ x 8′ and each produce 380 W of power. They just look small relative to a large flat roof.

    I’m not sure how China can help this kind of solar power. It seems to me where China does well is labor intensive manufacturing. Thin film solar looks to be capitally intensive.

  6. I don’t think these panels are technically “thin film” solar. They appear to be standard polycrystalline cells mounted to a semi-rigid plastic sheet.

    Unisolar also makes a peel-and-stick product, but theirs is amorphous and totally flexible (it ships rolled up). These panels, by contrast, are clearly not designed to bend.

    This represents a good forward step for large flat-roof installations. (It’s common to mount very large arrays flat to the roof and accept the performance hit for the sake of reduced installation costs. That’s Powerlight’s model, for example.) The panels are clearly lighter and easier to handle. They are probably cheaper (no aluminum frame) and obviously installation is cheaper and faster since racking is eliminated.

    My biggest question would be to know what they are using for a protective cover. It looks to be plastic, not glass (note the panels flexing slightly) which leads me to wonder if they will be prone to scratching, cracking, or hazing as they are exposed to 30+ years of UV, wind, dust, etc. Dusty panels can reduce output substantially, but are easily washed. Scratched/hazed panels would similarly impact performance, but would not be easily remedied.

  7. Well, if it would help anyone. I use solar now.
    The part that may be of interest, is that I rent my little home, and threw up the kilowatt of panels I have owned since 1998 on the roof. It offsets 85% of my electric on a yearly basis. Including the older grid-tie inverted I bought off craigslist, I have about $3100 into the system. I am happy to share my personal experiences. My advice: quit window shopping and get pragmatic. My system has paid for itself already, including the energy used to fab it.
    I listen to people all the time argue over which is better, a prius, or an honda hybrid…then they buy an SUV. Seriously. Most of the people I know spent more on their damned big screen TV, not to mention all the $$$ for ESPN! Make things happen! Be that change you want to see…

  8. green –

    The datasheet says there monocrystalline, which makes sense, looking at them. I had to take a second look after noticing clee’s comment about the high efficiency – all the peel and stick and flex PV that I have seen has been A-Si thin film. The best efficiencies in A-si for stuff in ready circulation is about 7%.

    That’s one of the big hurdles thin film has to overcome. It really holds the greatest promise of reducing material and processing costs, for all the obvious reasons. But at roughly half the efficiency, that’s twice the aluminum racking and surface area and labor, and hard to justify, even at discounts to crystalline.

    Lumeta says “teflon film” for the protective covering on the front, I would guess what they’re doing there is pretty standard. It’s the backing that has to be different. Framed solar panels rely in large measure on the perimeter frame for strength, and use a fairly thin layer (IMO) of Tedlar for backing. This product claims it uses fiberglass reinforced plastic. With crystalline cells that backing really needs to work. I also wonder about stresses due to differing coefficients of thermal expansion, with the more breakable crystalline cells.

    The real acid test for outside protection, the manufacturer’s tell us, is 1″ hailstones. Scratches aren’t a big issue if they don’t puncture, the diffuse light is collected as well. Most manufacturers derate output at about 1% per year for warranties, but there’s not a lot of long term data out there. Anecdotal evidence is that most panels are holding their output pretty well if their seals hold.

    I wonder how much output they lose due to high temperatures. Standard practice with framed panels is to leave at least 3″ between panel surface and roof to allow air circulation for cooling. In general, crystalline Si PV loses .5% per degree C above their rated output at 25C. With no airflow, 65-70 C surface temps in hot locales are fairly common. Too bad we can’t run them cooler at night!

  9. Kingofkaty-
    Okay, they are not “dinky.” But it seems even capital-intensive goods from China are cheap. TVs etc. Soon, they will be exporting PHEVs.
    By the way, the “cheap China” syndrome will only last another generation. Remember Japan? Now they (working people) make more than we do. China has more land and pop., but going inland will be expensive…..
    On another note, I recently complained the U.S. is falling behind the world…check out Internet download speeds in most other advanced countries (in today’s WSJ)…we are way, way behind….Asia is the future, my friends. South Korea, Japan much faster.., download speeds….
    Our energy programs, our Internet, our health plans, our city streets, our mass transportation…we are behind, behind, behind, behind…beginning to look like a Third World country….

  10. King –

    I think Home Power magazine and website are hard to beat as a starting point. It’s not a bad subscription to have for a year or two if you’re seriously thinking about an investment in PV at some point.

  11. Benny-

    China’s been exporting for a while. Check out Suntech solar. They’ve quickly risen to 3rd largest global supplier, I think. We used their 175 watt modules on a couple jobs last year and they were first quality. No discount in price though for the good Chinese stuff. A lot of large commercial projects are being rushed right now because the US commercial tax credit is set to expire at the end of the year. If it does, it may be time to buy for a bit.

    OTOH I just got burned on some real Chinese junk last month, through our standard distribution. Had to send it back. Twice, before I gave up and filled the order with name-brand and had to eat the difference.

  12. ifthesoe-

    thanks for the info…I have 6,000 sf factory in L.A., and so far the numbers don’t make it work for solar..I am the kind of guy who could do his own installtion if it were of the same order of complexity as run-of-the-mill plumbing, roofwork or electrical..I am switching to a veggie-mobile this year…which I recommend to anyone in Southwest…deisels never caught on in US, but greasy food sure has….

  13. You probably could do it yourself, but I think in CA it’s required that solar installations be done by a licensed contractor. Don’t take my word for it, I’m in UT so I’m not an expert on CA, but that’s what I gather.

    And CA has far and away the most and the strictest building/electrical codes related to solar. Everything from array grounding to firefighter access, to 10 year system warranties… & to get your rebates you have to demonstrate lack of shading, etc.

    You might want to have a solar contractor in your area stop by some time and give you an initial assessment. He or she will know what the local inspectors will allow and such. There’s a lot of construction related issues with building-scale solar that are in a lot of flux.

    All of us watch closely what happens in CA. Solar initiatives in the US are still primarily at the state level, and CA leads the way at present.

  14. shoe,

    Lumeta says “teflon film” for the protective covering on the front, I would guess what they’re doing there is pretty standard.

    Not standard for crystalline PV. Most crystalline framed modules have low-iron glass for their front.

    And scratching IS an issue, based on experience. Diffuse light is collected, but evidently not as efficiently as direct beam radiation.

    I think in CA it’s required that solar installations be done by a licensed contractor.

    Only if you want the full state rebate. Otherwise, if you can install to code, go for it.

  15. Has anybody ever seriously considered the environmental impacts of producing(organo-metallic compounds, solvents, etc) and, twenty years later, disposing of PV materials? Is there truly an enormous societal benefit over burning and scrubbing coal? Both methods require mining. Surely there must be a reason PV is difficult to manufacture in the US. Is it really THE ‘sustainable’ solution?

  16. benny…”check out Internet download speeds in most other advanced countries (in today’s WSJ)…we are way, way behind”….it is much easier & cheaper to run wideband connections to residences when you are in a very dense are like Tokyo.

    Also, how many real (residential) applications are there for which today’s download speeds are not sufficient? Streaming of high-definition video comes to mind, but this is probably not something that needs to be a national priority.

    Note also that Verizon is currently investing major capital in a fiber-to-the-home project.

  17. David-
    Maybe this is OT, but I will try to connect it to our (lack of) domestic energy programs.
    Europe uses one-half the BTUs we do, per unit of GDP.. Great Britian has a health plan that has been improved in recent years, and costs one-half the GDP that ours does…crime is much, much lower amywhere in the Western world…
    Asia has download speeds 20-30 times ours….
    Do we “need” faster downloads? I used the web professionally, and I say yes….besides, years ago, one could have asked, “do we need telephones?” Once the technology is there, it becomes embedded…I would say rapid transfer of info. is always a good….
    Today’s WSJ says Nissan is going ahead with a lithium battery from NEC…
    I just get the sense that the USA is falling behind…where 30 years we were No. 1 in everything….
    Life is better in Japan, Europe, maybe even other Asian countries than in U.S…theyare eclipsing us technologically….we live in dreamworld we are supreme…
    Coming back to energy: without some serious medicine, we will fall further behid, and speb much larger portions of our income to obtain energy, and sends gobs of money to thug oil states….
    the solutions are there; PHEVs such as the Volt and boosted US power plants, and drilling for shale oil….but do we have the will…do we even have the knowledge what to do? We are watching Paris Hilton and the NFL…

  18. California changed their law as of January 2008. Instead of rebating you per installed kilowatt, that pay you per watt hour you actually produce. So now if you want to shade your panels or install them facing north, it is your business.

  19. Teflon films do not scratch easily, especially without applied force – just a sandstorm wouldn’t have much effect. You’d have to actively scratch it with a sharp object.

    Oh, and UV coatings are cheap and good. Plus not all polymers degrade strongly under UV.

    United solar ovonics also has a panel with adhesive. Check it out here

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