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Thin-film agrivoltaic solar tubes

Thin-film agrivoltaic solar tubes

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German tech company Tube Solar AG has secured €10.8 million to develop its cylindrical agrivoltaic modules. The lightweight devices could also be used on roofs until now considered unsuitable for PV.

Bavaria’s minister of economic affairs, Hubert Aiwanger, has awarded €10.8 million to German photovoltaic company Tube Solar AG.

The company makes what it describes as robust, lightweight thin-film solar tubes, primarily for agrivoltaic use. “Thanks to the innovative tube modules from Tube Solar AG, agriculture and energy generation will not be mutually exclusive, but complementary,” said Aiwanger, announcing the funding yesterday.

The German manufacturer says its tube modules are a simple encapsulation of flexible photovoltaic strips in a glass tube. The devices have been produced since last year at a former fluorescent tube production site in Augsburg which belonged to German multinational lighting company Osram.

Tube Solar, which aims to expand its annual production capacity at Augsburg to 250 MW, said its products can be permeated by light and water for optimal plant growth and require simple, inexpensive mounting and assembly. The tubes offer partial shading to crops as well as protection from heavy rain, hail and bird droppings and Tube Solar says their rounded surface also offers a self-cleaning aspect.

Minister Aiwanger said the lightweight devices, in addition to their agrivoltaic applications, could be installed on roofs until now thought unsuitable for heavier, conventional solar modules. “That is why the Free State of Bavaria is happy to support this project with a large grant,” said the politician.

U.S. thin-film solar manufacturer Solyndra developed a similar technology a decade ago but went bankrupt in August 2011, despite having secured a $535 million (€453 million) loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, and said it was a victim of dumping by state-backed Chinese solar firms. Cylindrical devices have been largely out of vogue since.

Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network
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