Earlier this year the world’s first flexible solar manufacturing facility to use micro-groove technology opened in County Durham.
Power Roll opened its solar film pilot manufacturing facility in County Durham in February this year. It is the first facility in the world to produce low-cost, lightweight, flexible solar film using Power Roll’s patented micro-groove technology. Located on a former colliery site, the pilot manufacturing facility carries on a long tradition of energy innovation in Northeast England and is a milestone in the evolution of energy, producing next-generation solar solutions to support the transition towards a sustainable energy system.
Emerging solutions such as Power Roll’s flexible film will enable solar to be deployed more easily in the built environment, off-grid, on vehicles and other applications where traditional silicon solar panels are too heavy or too expensive to be used. Estimates suggest that current UK commercial roof space alone could accommodate almost 100 gigawatts of solar film – equivalent to building 20,000 five megawatt solar farms.
Neil Spann, chief executive, Power Roll added: “Our mission is to dramatically increase the uptake of solar power, worldwide, and our new pilot manufacturing facility is a huge step towards delivering our vision. Our technology can make a significant contribution to tackling climate change while improving the lives of millions, worldwide, through access to low-cost clean energy.
“Developed in the North East , our unique micro-groove design enables a manufacturing process that uses a roll-to-roll technique similar to many low-cost print processes in use today. We will fully demonstrate our technology at our Durham facility and will partner with large companies in the UK and overseas to globally scale up the solar film manufacturing. Countries around the world will be able to establish local manufacturing facilities to produce solar film for deployment in their own cities, towns and remote communities, creating thousands of green jobs.”
Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council said: “Having a pioneering company like Power Roll here is testament to the council’s investment in Jade Business Park, one of our strategic employment sites, and demonstrates the importance of our commitment to both supporting private growth and delivering more and better jobs for our residents.
“We look forward to introducing many more innovative growing companies to our county going forward.”
Power Roll’s approach to manufacturing solar film, which uses widely available materials and familiar production processes, yields a carbon footprint that is up to 20 times lower than silicon PV. When the film is produced at scale, manufacturing costs are forecast to be as low as a tenth of the cost of other flexible PV. Solar film can be deployed on warehouses and agricultural sheds where the roofs are not strong enough to bear the weight of traditional solar panels. Its light weight and flexibility also make it easier and cheaper to transport, bringing electricity to communities who may not otherwise have been able to access it.
Power Roll recently signed an agreement with UK-based Futurepump, a manufacturer of affordable, portable water pumps for agriculture. The partners will explore the use of Power Roll’s solar film with Futurepump’s irrigation pumping system, particularly in off-grid locations such as Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. The combination of lightweight solar film and highly efficient DC-based water pumps creates a water distribution system that is environmentally friendly, sustainable, adaptable, easy to use, and very low cost.
Power Roll’s new pilot factory, located in Jade Business Park, County Durham currently employs 34 highly skilled workers and heralds the start of a new generation of solar power; offering new opportunities for manufacturers to diversify into the burgeoning renewable energy market.
Jade Business Park is a 55-acre employment site next to the A19, close to Dalton Park, and is set to provide up to 1 million sq ft of new employment space and over 2,500 jobs.
The park is owned by Durham County Council, managed by Business Durham, the council’s business support service and developed by Highbridge Properties PLC.
Power Roll recently secured £5.8m of further equity investment; taking the total to over £20m to fund the ongoing development and scaling of its unique technology. The company has also benefitted from significant regional and national government support including four rounds of UKRI Energy Catalyst funding, worth more than £1.5 million.