Australia invests $9.6m in eArc lightweight solar panels
Date Posted:13 November 2020
The Australian Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has funded the Sunman company through the Clean Energy Innovation Fund to further develop its revolutionary eArc lightweight, flexible solar panels.
Company founder and solar scientist Dr Zhengrong Shi, a graduate of the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, invented eArc solar panels and is widely regarded as a pioneer in the industry.
Solar 4 RVs has been selling eArc solar panels since 2017 revolutionising the RV market with a reliable lightweight product that has a 5 year warranty. After thousands of panel sales only one customer has needed to replace a panel after it was damaged.
The eArc modules can already be used across a wider range of applications than existing glass modules, as they are 70 per cent lighter than a glass module and 14-17 kg lighter than conventional panels. They are made of a tough lightweight polymer composite material and are cheaper to transport and easier to install as they can be glued to a surface. Gluing panels to the roof solves structural limitations with regards to uplift forces.
CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said: “The flexibility of the eArc panel means we can be more creative about where we install solar PV, moving beyond flat rooftops to awnings, carports, carpark canopies and building facades. The lighter weight of the panels also means solar can be extended across existing rooftops on factories, warehouses, garages and other structures that are not strong enough to support heavier glass panels.” They can be bent to fit on curved roofs.
Dr Shi said an estimated 40% of commercial roofs are structurally “slender” and cannot accommodate the weight or uplift of glass solar modules. eArc panels weigh "70 per cent" (14-17 kilograms) less than traditional glass panels since they are made from a plastic-like "polymer composite" similar to aircraft windows.
Solar 4 Rs sells eArc solar panels for installations on caravans, motorhomes, 4x4, campers, boats, buses, trucks, tiny homes and carports.
Last year 800 eArc’s were installed on the Australian National Maritime Museum’s Heritage Centre in Darling Harbour making it the country’s largest lightweight solar module roof. The building’s heritage status, and a steep roof (30-degree pitch), meant it was not strong enough to bear the weight of conventional heavy glass panels. The eArc modules have reduced the Museum’s electricity consumption by 25%.
eArc panels have also been installed onto the curved roof of the word’s first solar train at Byron Bay as well being fitted on the exterior walls (as opposed to the rooftop) of a Melbourne apartment building, Docklands' Harbour One.
About the CEFC
The CEFC has a unique role to increase investment in Australia’s transition to lower emissions. Backed by the Australian Government, the CEFC invests to address some of Australia’s toughest emissions challenges in agriculture, energy generation and storage, infrastructure, property, transport and waste.