Thin-film solar tubes provide energy generating potential where PV won’t work

Thin-film solar tubes provide energy generating potential where PV won’t work

September 22, 2020 2 By Angie Bergenson

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The cylindrical technology is lightweight to be usable on areas where traditional panels are unsuitable.

Tube Solar AG, a German technology company, has secured €10.8 million in new funding for the development of its cylindrical solar tubes. These models would be used for agrivoltaic purposes.

The modules are lightweight and would be better suited to agriculture structures than PV panels.

Hubert Aiwanger, the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, awarded the funding to the company for its agrivoltaic thin-film solar tubes. The primary reason for which this technology would be used is for powering agriculture buildings and equipment.

“Thanks to the innovative tube modules from Tube Solar AG, agriculture and energy generation will not be mutually exclusive, but complementary,” said Aiwanger when he announced the new funding.

According to the company, its modules are a recreation of traditional photovoltaic structures. They use flexible PV strips encapsulated within a glass tube . The company has been producing them since 2019. They are manufactured at a former fluorescent tube production site located in Augsburg. That plant once belonged to Osram, the German multinational lighting business.

The company’s goal is to expand its solar tube annual production capacity at Augsburg to 250 MW.

According to the company, the tubes are light and water permeable, which makes it possible to place them above crops while still allowing optimal plant growth beneath. The structures to hold the modules are inexpensive and are simple to mount and assemble. While allowing sunlight and rain to reach the plants below, the structures also provide crops with partial shading and protection from hail, heavy rainfall, and even bird droppings. Moreover, since the modules have a rounded surface, they remain cleaner.

The modules are lightweight. This means that they can not only be placed on fields but can also be installed on roofs that would not be strong enough to hold traditional PV panels, which are considerably heavier.

“That is why the Free State of Bavaria is happy to support this project with a large grant,” explained Solar Tubes - Image of light bulb and sunlightAiwanger who applauded the design and practicality of the cylindrical agrivoltaic solar tubes for the region.