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Prism Solar: Breaking the glass ceiling
Prism Solar has been a technology innovator in the solar and holographic fields since 2005. As the company approaches its 10th anniversary, it does so with the goal of making all glass parts on buildings solar powered.
Jerry Hughes, Prism Solar’s director of sales and marketing, says that the company’s highly efficient bifacial N-type silicon solar cells with an unprecedented near equal backside efficiency (96%) are ideally positioned for the next generation of building construction, when all glass is capable of producing solar energy and is designed into original design specs.
Prism focuses on bifacial products where we it sees up to 40 per cent more energy than can be produced than compared with the front face of monfacial products. Its modules use highly efficient bifacial solar cells and are available in two designs -- modules fully populated with bifacial cells, and enhanced bifacial modules with Prism's patented holographic optical technology.
Q: Your products are manufactured in the United States. Does this provide any advantage?
A: With a module manufacturing facility in Highland, New York, (90 minutes from New York City) and a holographic film manufacturing and research facility in Tucson, Arizona, we are uniquely positioned to work in close partnership with manufacturers across North America and around the world.
Q: How are your current technologies/modules being accepted by the marketplace?
A: Acceptance was slow at the outset since bifacial modules have typically been 2 to 3 times the cost of monfacial modules and their backside only had 60 per cent of the STC power of the front side. However, as our technology has matured, we are now less than two times the cost and our backside power averages 95 per cent of the front side. So the economics have changed in our favor for many of our applications.
Q: What application has been most suited for your product line?
A: Bifacial modules have historically been used for attractive-architectural installations. We now see that bifacial is becoming the industry standard for white rooftops due to significant energy gains from the bifacility.
Q: What secondary or niche markets are you pursuing down the road?
A: After the reflective rooftop market, the best application of our product is carports or overhead structures and BIPV. Our glass/glass package can be glazed as any other glass product for complete watertight seal and dual layer of tempered glass qualifies it for safety glass applications.
All exterior glass components on buildings should eventually be solar. Buildings are almost all glass from floor to ceiling, and the spandrel is the next step to turn into solar on buildings. Obviously white reflective roofs are ideal for bifacial, but that can still be done as an add-on, so that’s not really a new market.
Q: What factor is crucial to boost deployment of your product line?
A: Solar has typically been sold as an add-on after the building is designed and/or built. We see solar being integrated into the building designs and the property of architects, glazers and roofers in addition to the solar installers. Anywhere glass is currently used will be a potential for solar modules, enabling the next wave of growth for our industry.
Q: Technology innovation occurs at a rapid rate in the solar sector. What measures are you taking as a company to make sure that your technology is not leapfrogged?
A: Considering that we are one of those leapfrog technologies, we are working with like minded companies to rapidly open new markets for integrated PV around the globe.
Q: What gives your firm a competitive advantage?
A: We sell improved system-cost (i.e. kWh/Wp) while many still rely on $/Wstc as their measure for selecting modules. We have developed an industry leading simulation programme for documenting the additional energy from bifacial modules. Training the customers, installers and financiers remains a challenge. Introducing solar bifacial glass modules into the architect design market so that its included in up front designs can be long slow process. Eventually solar will be there, so we want to be on that front end.
Q: Where is Prism Solar’s niche in the industry today?
A: Right now we are predominantly residential and landing good looking small commercial projects between 5 and 50 Kw. In the next two years we believe the white roof and bifacial solar markets are going to be synonymous because we collect so much external energy from the white roof.
Most new technologies start as “add-ons” then become designed into mainstream products. Solar is in the add-on stage, but eventually it will be integrated into most building designs. That can be a long process, but eventually, all-glass modules will become a standard building component.