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A light weight, recyclable, tracking support system, for solar photovoltaic modules based on inflatable polymer membranes

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - POLYSOLAR (A light weight, recyclable, tracking support system, for solar photovoltaic modules based on inflatable polymer membranes)

Reporting period: 2014-10-01 to 2015-03-31

This Final report of our POLYSOLAR project shall provide information about the work done during the implementation of the project. It is a summary of our Deliverable 1.1 Feasibility study, which is the main outcome of the Phase 1 project. According to the workplan of our proposal, the following tasks have been successfully performed:

- Identify technical limitations in the design and performance of the prototype, and propose solutions,
- Evaluate technological feasibility for mass production,
- Identify potential manufacturers of system components, and determine which aspects of manufacturing and assembly should take place in-house,
- Define how the technology will be further developed,
- Select most adequate IP protection means,
- Evaluate intellectual property indicators,
- Undertake market research and validation,
- Define distribution channels and identify commercialization partners,
- Prepare feasibility report and business plan.

Overview of POLYSOLAR
The EU-28 aims to achieve a 20% share for renewable energy sources in its overall energy consumption by 2020. Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy, and wind energy will both play a major role in achieving this target, and have been the leading sources of new electricity generation in EU since 2011. PV energy is generated by:

• large/utility-scale, ground mounted PV plants (34% of PV market in 2013), and
• medium and small scale distributed systems on residential buildings (22%) or commercial and industrial buildings (44%), e.g. in the form of PV roofs, walls, or car ports. Conservative estimates predict the global rooftop PV market to be stable at ~20GW per year to 2018, with the EU representing 24-29% of that market.

Although PV remains a policy-driven market, positively influenced by feed in tariffs (FiTs) or similar support schemes, PV technology price decreases and rising electricity prices have helped drive momentum toward “dynamic grid parity” - when the savings in electricity cost and/or the revenues generated by selling PV electricity are equal to or higher than the long-term cost of installing and financing a PV system.

Most commercial PV solar modules are either mono-/polycrystalline or thin-film types. Support systems are used to hold solar modules in place and may be either fixed-tilt or tracking types. Tracking types orient PV modules toward the sun to improve efficiency.
Under all scenarios, PV will continue to increase its share of the energy mix in Europe and around the world, increasingly delivering clean, safe, affordable and decentralised electricity to people.
Solardynamik has identified an opportunity to enter the rooftop PV market, with our patented low-cost, ultra-light weight support system, which has a series of economic advantages for user and unique selling points compared to state of the art support systems.

The POLYSOLAR solution
POLYSOLAR is a light-weight, tracking support system for solar PV modules based on a recyclable, inflatable polymer membrane.
The main innovation of the POLYSOLAR solution arises from the ZAR project at the Technical University of Berlin, Department of Bionics and Evolution technology, to develop light-weight pneumatic muscles for a human-like robotic hand and arm. POLYSOLAR uses a simplified pneumatic muscle for solar tracking. Solar tracking improves the efficiency of solar cells by orientating them towards the sun.
Our innovative support system comprises a light-weight polymer body, which is inflated by a compressed air pump to provide the optimum angle of inclination of the solar panels with respect to the sun to generate maximum power output. Our system uses a simplified pneumatic muscle and other innovations to provide unique selling points compared to SoA support systems.

At the end of the project, all five planned objectives (below) were achieved.

Objective 1: To identify technical limitations in the design and performance of the prototype, and to propose solutions.

Objective 2: To c
Work performed and main results

Objective 1: To identify technical limitations in the design and performance of the prototype, and to propose solutions.
The previous prototype was analyzed and weak spots were identified. A new functional model was developed that provided new insights into the technology. Improvements were made using a new welding method. The welding seam is now much more stable. We have identified technological problems that could arise in volume production and have developed solutions. Through this work, we have defined static, and one-axis tracker versions that we plan to bring to the market in Q4 2018.

Objective 2: To consider mass production of the system, plan our own production, and identify manufacturers of system components.
The technological feasibility of POLYSOLAR was analyzed, including market research in Germany, Europe and the USA, where we analyzed 78 competing products. Based on this analysis, an enhanced SWOT analysis was elaborated. We have identified a suitable production process for volume production. Possible manufacturers of system components have also been identified.

Objective 3: to develop an IPR protection strategy, and identify and further protect our intellectual property.
We conducted an international patent study, which confirms that we have freedom to operate with the POLYSOLAR solution. A patent lawyer was contracted to develop a new patent strategy. He assessed our actual patents and a new patent application was developed and submitted in the Phase 1 project.

Objective 4: to perform a comprehensive study of target markets in the commercial and industrial PV rooftop segment.

Objective 5: to identify and assess potential distribution partners for European and world markets.
We performed a market analysis of the global photovoltaic (PV)-market. A new business-plan was developed including a financial plan and commercialization strategy. A database with 200 possible distributers for POLYSOLAR was created, with 80 companies contacted, and 18 expressions of interest received.

We have established a roadmap for further technological development and the commercial exploitation and have set up a workplan for the Phase 2 of the POLYSOLAR project.

Other achievements of the Phase 1 project:
We have attracted a German investor, who performed an Opportunity Assessment of POLYSOLAR with favorable results.

Three strategic partners have confirmed their interest in providing products and solutions to complement, and bring added value the POLYSOLAR solution

• A major German waste and recycling company, wishes to install a POLYSOLAR pilot system in their facilities during the Phase 2 project, and
• A major German solar company is currently evaluating our technology for possible future collaboration as a key distribution partner.
Through this project, we have advanced the technological and commercial readiness of the POLYSOLAR technology, to launch our first solar PV support system products onto the market in Q4 2018.
Wider societal benefits include increased employment opportunities and economic activity from the manufacture, sales, installation and maintenance of this new product and associated services. POLYSOLAR will provide a cost-effective renewable energy source, designed for the urban landscape, for community sports and social facilities, public parking, tourism/kiosks, and public lighting, and smart-city innovations. It will also help the EU reach a 20% share of energy from renewable sources by 2020, for a more sustainable future.