SolarCity is one of the major suppliers of solar power systems in the United States and has occupied the market share of nearly 40%. One report by the GTM Research also revealed that SolarCity had occupied the largest portion of market share for four straight quarters in 2015, 20% bigger than the Vivint Solar who ranked second. Though the competition is fierce, recently an energy startup called Forward Labs has gotten much attention through its efficient and “colorful” solar panels.
Apply Colors to the Solar Panels
In general, solar panels are black or blue. The panels made of monocrystalline silicon are black; and those made of polycrystalline silicon are blue. Besides, there’s a difference in power generation efficiency, the efficiency of the former panels is slightly higher than that of the latter ones.
As a startup, Forward Labs wants to bring some freshness or innovation to the solar industry. The solar panels produced by this company can show different colors except the normal black and blue, with special optical coatings applied – which would not produce negative effect on the power generation efficiency. At present, this company has eight kinds of colors for customers' customization.
Forward Labs’ solar panels are composite structures comprising metal roof materials and solar cells. These panels contain metal roof materials would be installed on the roofs facing south; while the places like chimneys, skylights or snorkels where solar panels cannot be installed are able to use metal roof panels with similar colors instead. So it would not destroy the coordination and unity of a building’s aesthetics. And even if you carry out a careful observation, it’s not easy to find out the visual differences.
“Currently, the solar panels on the market are not good-looking. For some people, the solar panels installed on the roofs may look like the flaws of the building. We want to make our products better to have a good-looking appearance as well as make good use of the sun’s rays.” Zach Taylor, the product architect of Forward Labs, once said to FOURTH ENERGY.
Both A Good-Looking Appearance and Higher Power Generation Efficiency
Compared with other products, Forward Labs’ solar panels can have an efficient performance either in summer or in winter.
Under normal circumstances, the conversion rate of panels would drop significantly when the temperature is over 27 degrees Celsius. And if the temperature does not exceed 45 degrees Celsius, solar panels can maintain normal operation. But overall, to obtain a good conversion rate, it is necessary to keep the temperature of panels as low as possible. Forward Labs has invented a technology to speed up the velocity of the air between mental roof materials and solar panels, serving to lower the temperature. Using this technology, Forward Labs’ solar panels are able to keep in operation at low temperatures, with a good conversion rate.
Additionally, in winter, snow would be easy to accumulate on solar panels. To reduce the negative effect of the accumulated snow on the conversion process, the measure taken by Forward Labs is instructing the control system to automatically cover the panels up when it snows; and when the sun comes out, the system will re-open the panels to convert power.
This video introduces the 2-in-1 good-looking solar panels system in detail:
It Would Be Costly to Obtain This Kind of “Beauty”
As the world’s first startup to design and produce this kind of composite solar panels, it’s not easy to make customers pay money. Presently, the price of Forward Labs’ solar panels is double that of SolarCity’s. That’s because Forward Labs’ solar panels comprise both metal roof materials and solar cells, while most solar panels on the market are only made of solar cells.
For Forward Labs, labor cost is also very high. Since the company is still in the startup stage and the order quantity is small, most units are produced within the United States. But as the business grows, the production would be gradually transferred to China or Korea.
It can be predicted that the cost of Forward Labs’ solar systems would receive reduction over time. Just the high cost today has become a serious impediment to its further development. Zach Taylor (the product architect) also added, the high conversion rate of Forward Labs’ solar systems can offset the cost partially.
To Expand Awareness through Crowdfunding
Recently Forward Labs has launched a crowdfunding campaign on the famous crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Nevertheless, this campaign does not aim at crowdfunding an entire solar power system; instead, the goal is to crowdfund the first book to record the company’s growth. comment↓