Nansolar, a San Jose, California thin-film solar company, has made a lot of press announcements lately for various news items, including opening a solar panel assembly facility in Germany, boosting its CIGS cells’ efficiency and unveiling new Utility Panel technology (read the Greentech Media story here).
According to Nanosolar, its Utility Panel is the first solar electricity panel specifically designed for utility-scale systems.
The company’s white paper says the new solar panel provides electrical benefits (increased power per panel), reliability benefits (better sealing and encapsulation to prevent moisture damage) and mechanical benefits (superior strength due to tempered glass panes on both the back and front of the panel).
Nansolar has several pending patent applications relating to its encapsulation technology and large-scale solar modules. U.S. Application Pub. Nos. 2007/0295385 (’385 Application), 2007/0295386, 2007/0295387, 2007/0295388, 2007/0295389 and 2007/0295390 comprise a family of applications directed to encapulated solar cells.
The ‘385 Application describes a solar cell (10) having a protective layer (20) mounted in packaging that includes pottant layers (30, 32). The packaging has at least one outer barrier layer (40), which may be made of tempered glass.
The packaging may also have a backside support layer (50). Edge sealing material (54) prevents moisture penetration and may be made of butyl rubber tape or epoxy.
U.S. Application Pub. No. 2008/0041434 is directed to a photovoltaic module designed to be used without a junction box.
The module (10) includes a rigid transparent upper layer (12), a pottant layer (14) and a plurality of solar cells (16). The transparent upper layer (12) is made of glass and provides structural support and acts as a protective barrier.
A protective backsheet (20) has an electrically insulating layer (22), a support layer (24) and another electrically insulating layer (26). In one embodiment, the electrically insulating layers are made of black alumina to maximize emission of heat, and the support layer is made of aluminum.
Openings (30) in the backsheet (20) allow wire (40) or wire ribbon (42) to extend outward from the module (10) and be connected to another module to create an electrical interconnection between modules, eliminating the need for a junction box.
According to the ‘434 Application, this solar module design reduces manufacturing costs and redundant parts in each module.
Eric Lane is a patent attorney and intellectual property lawyer at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego, where he is in the Intellectual Property and Climate Change & Clean Technology practices. Eric is the founder and author of Green Patent Blog, which provides discussion and analysis of intellectual property law issues in clean technology.