Germany-based startup Odersun has told Greentech Media that the first bags with its copper-tape-based solar cells will be going on sale by the end of this month.
The messenger bags will cost €149 when they hit the shelves initially, according to project manager Steffen Schwarzer. The company has been taking preorders for the bags since June, offering them at a lower price of €135.40.
While the company wouldn't say how many bags would hit the shelves initially, Schwarzer said the company has received "roaring demand" for the bags since beginning to accept preorders in June. He later quantified that as "at least hundreds" of orders.
Of course, Odersun isn't the first to offer thin-film cells for integration into things like bags and clothing. As electronic gadgets like phones add features, the need for power throughout the day has grown, leading companies like Konarka, Global Solar and Shell Solar to develop solar cells for that purpose.
A number of industry insiders wonder whether the market for these cells is worth it.
"It's a pretty limited market," said Jesse Pichel, a vice president and senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray. "If they can get Paris Hilton to wear a solar handbag to power an air freshener for Tinkerbell II, then they've got a gold mine. But at this point, the market's pretty small and I don't think it adds any value to the company."
With the bags' practical appearance, they don't look like anything Hilton will be buying soon.
Still, the fact that solar is tapping into new markets is interesting, said Robert Wilder, CEO of WilderShares, which manages several energy indices.
"The industry, for pretty long, has had a mindset that solar was something that you wouldn't put out in rough workaday environments," he said. "But with these new materials, you can get solar printed on cloth, tents, clothes. We're all walking around with laptops and cell phones, and many are outside all day, so a very small amperage can trickle charge these lithium-ion batteries."
The efficiencies of these types of cells tend to be much lower than crystalline, but should have a larger market if they can get costs down, Wilder said. Prices are the ultimate factor, he said.
Odersun, founded in 2002, announced in April that it was beginning production of its cells, which use copper-indium-disulphide on copper tape, at its 5-megawatt-annual-capacity "Sun One" plant in Frankfurt (Oder). The company is planning second plant, "Sun Two," that will which is expected to have an annual capacity of 30 megawatts.