The man nicknamed the "Sun King" returned to Australia to launch a flagship solar project in Sydney and set himself the goal of bridging a gap in the solar market with his new eArche module design that has obtained surprising reductions in weight and size.
Dr. Shi Zhengrong, who for a time was the first billionaire of clean energy in the world, opens a 235 kW solar installation at the Sydney Maritime Museum on Wednesday, using innovative lightweight solar modules that Dr. Shi he hopes to be able to tap into a huge undeserved market for Australia's light weight rooftop solar energy.
"Solar has existed for a long time, almost half a century. Over the past 20 years, the solar industry has shifted from a niche market to one of the world's largest renewable energy industries, said Dr. Shi.
"We are entering the arena without subsidies and solar has become an economic source of electricity. In that context, we ask what will be next? "
Dr. Shi stated to RenewEconomy that he sees a continuous and growing market opportunity for solar energy integration in home design, describing the market as similar to a "furniture" style market where customers are starting to consider solar energy as an essential feature of the home.
However, due to technical constraints, many homes and businesses have actually been excluded from the solar energy market.
To overcome this, new products will have to be introduced to the market through its new Sunman adventure that will allow the integration of solar systems in housing products such as roofs and shading structures.
"If you come to this type of" outdoor furniture "market, it depends a lot on aesthetics and design. We have developed eArche to try to break this new market, since it is made without glass and can be integrated into almost everything, "Dr. Shi told Renew Economy.
SunMan has developed the design of the eArche solar module, which avoids the need to enclose solar cells in glass and aluminum structures using composite materials and, consequently, has obtained a design of the solar module that is 70% lighter and more 80% thinner than traditional modules.
The combination of a thinner, lighter and more flexible design creates the potential for solar models to be integrated into building materials and could be distributed over structures with weight limits.
SunMan considers the Australian market particularly attractive for the design of low-weight solar modules, which would facilitate the installation of rooftop solar systems in factories and warehouses that may not be able to support the weight of conventional solar modules.
By expanding the potential market for distributed solar systems, SunMan also hopes to avoid some of the problems that have impacted large-scale solar projects.
"Large-scale solar power plants are beginning to face problems, from factors of marginal loss and reduction. The distributed market makes more sense and is becoming increasingly popular. But if you look at commercial or industrial buildings, many of these buildings can't handle the weight. We see this as the low hanging fruit. "
The Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney will serve as a guest on the Sunman lighthouse project in Australia.
The museum was studying the installation of solar panels on its buildings, but found that the roof structures would not be able to handle the weight of the standard panels and, combined with the 30-degree slope of the roof of the building, the traditional modules on were to be governed.
The 235kW installation will provide about a quarter of the energy consumption of the museum's Wharf 7 building in Darling Harbor. The system will use the SunMan solar panel design, substantially reducing the weight of the solar installation.
“We came across a unique SunMan glass-free solar panel. The 5.5 kg lightweight panels could overcome the structural challenges of the building and also have the same power as conventional 20 kg panels, "said museum director Kevin Sumption.
"When I developed eArche I knew that it could release the solar potential for buildings that previously were not able to support traditional glass solar panels," said Dr. Shi.
"Innovations such as lightness, flexibility, high performance and competitive costs mean that solar can now be applied to any construction project."
The eArche solar model uses otherwise standard monocrystalline PERC solar cells, which have been encapsulated in a structure using composite materials, which offer the same durability and performance as normal solar cells, while achieving a significant reduction in the weight of the modules.
The company launched the light and flexible panels in Australia in 2017 and provided a demonstration of their potential through their deployment on a "solar train" project in Byron Bay.
Dr. Shi Zhengrong was among the first to achieve commercial success in the early days of the solar industry, becoming one of the first "solar billionaires" and one of the richest people in both China and Australia.
After completing his doctorate at the University of New South Wales with Professor Martin Green, Dr. Shi saw the opportunity to take the innovations developed in Australia out of the lab and bring them to the market.
Dr. Shi exploited his experience at UNSW to start one of the first successful solar energy producers in Suntech, which had grown to become the largest solar panel manufacturer in the world in 2011 before the company it melted due to rapid expansion, just like a substantial excess supply struck in the international solar market.
Dr. Shi now hopes to revisit his most ardent success by drawing on a market that is currently unattended for photovoltaics and has won the support of ARENA.
SunMan Energy received an investment of $ 6.6 million from the Southern Cross Renewable Energy Fund, which is a partnership between Softbank China Venture Capital and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, with each group aiming for $ 3.3 million .
"The solar technology created by SunMan is an innovative and versatile alternative that can help incorporate solar into buildings by making solar a key part of the construction process and allowing solar installation on curved surfaces or historic buildings "said Darren Miller, CEO of ARENA.
"The Southern Cross Renewable Energy Fund challenges companies and entrepreneurs to think outside the box and SunMan has achieved this goal."