For a long time, flexible photovoltaics (PV) have struggled to claim their share of the PV market. Rigid substrates have dominated since they first became available, large-scale, in the late 1970s and 1980s. Strangely enough, the technology did not change for a long time, and is not radically different today. Not for rigid.
Flexible PV is a different story. In Bruce Wright’s feature, Let there be (flexible) light!, he explains that flexible PV is now able to produce products that are comparably efficient with rigid PV technologies. The problem with flexible PV historically has been its ability to produce enough energy, reliably, at a market-acceptable price. As Wright explains in his feature, the economy during the last decade may have forced some companies to close and others to sell, but this has not necessarily been detrimental overall. One has to be impressed with the tenacity of the industry, generally.
Incremental improvements have been quietly underway all along, and even though we may be a ways from ubiquitous consumer availability, a small and variable stream of consumer product launches is evidence that early adopters are paying attention. These tend to be in high-end fashion, due to their expense, but interest is interest, and if new market research is correct, the technology may not be exclusive to designer and custom clothing for long. Flexible PV will play a more prominent role in technical textiles, too, with practical application in commercial buildings, military uses and elsewhere. (Be sure to check this site again later this month and I’ll supply more hard evidence.) With efficiencies and cost at a competitive level, the potential for flexible PV is clearly enormous.
For more, see Energy for the future on this site. I’ve also blogged about this more than once, so if you’d like to follow my train of thought, search “photovoltaics.” I’ve always been interested in the potential for solar energy. With the latest advancements, I think we are finally on our way to making real strides for the first time in decades. I can’t wait to put up my PV window shades and power up my TV and laptop.