Power Roll, a developer of ultra low-cost and lightweight flexible solar PV, has been awarded funding through Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst 7 to evaluate the use of flexible PV film in powering rural, off-grid applications in developing regions.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Power Roll recently switched the focus of one of its projects to supply power to a rural health centre in Southern Zambia. The health centre provides basic healthcare to a rural community. On Call Africa, a UK healthcare charity, oversees the running of the clinic and Vero Power, specialists in working with communities across Africa to enable access to electricity, is Power Roll’s project delivery partner working in Zambia.
The off-grid system consists of a 5 kW flexible solar PV array, an inverter with remote monitoring and a 3.2 kVA/5.2 kWh battery store to provide power throughout the night. The electricity generated will power lighting, a refrigerator and other essential equipment.
“The World Bank estimates there are 840 million people without access to electricity and another 3 billion that rely on polluting fuels for heating and cooking,” said Neil Spann, managing director, Power Roll. “Energy demand is set to grow rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. Our flexible solar film has the potential to dramatically increase access to off-grid power because it can be manufactured for just $0.03 per Watt – substantially lower than any other source of power.”
Executive Chair, Innovate UK, Dr Ian Campbell, said: “Businesses from all over the UK have answered our call rapidly to meet the challenges we face today and in the future through the power of innovation. The ideas we have seen can truly make a significant impact on society, improve the lives of individuals, especially those in vulnerable groups and enable businesses to prosper in challenging circumstances.”
The scope of the trial is wide ranging. Power Roll will assess the technical benefits associated with a lightweight, portable source of solar power, and will also evaluate how access to affordable, clean electricity can enable social inclusion and gender equality. It is also trialling novel approaches to mounting the solar film using wire tensioning systems, which allow the solar film to be quickly and easily moved to where it is most needed.
“Deploying Power Roll’s innovative PV technology in our ground-breaking micro-grid solutions can be life-changing for rural off-grid communities. The cost-effectiveness of the product, the lightweight nature of the system and the ease of training our existing supply chain of installation partners will deliver substantial benefits,” said Craig Morgan, chief executive officer, VeroPower.
Power Roll is working closely with partner BIPVCo to integrate its flexible PV modules into the pilot system. These modules will provide valuable benchmark data to help evaluate the performance of Power Roll’s solar film, which will be used in the next stage of the project.
The project is scheduled to run through to the end of 2021 and Power Roll will report on the outcomes in January 2022.
About Power Roll
Power Roll, headquartered in Sunderland, has developed a unique, flexible, light weight solar film capable of producing ultra-low-cost green electricity that is up to 20 times cheaper to make than existing flexible PV. By applying different coatings to its versatile microgroove design, Power Roll can also use the film for energy storage and to manufacture capacitors. Power Roll’s microgroove film is suitable for non-load-bearing rooftops, building integration, transport, portable applications, off-grid projects and IoT sensors.
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