We’ve been intrigued by a patent-pending steel solar module frame from U.S.-based Origami Solar that uses a steel roll forming process that creates a frame with intricate folds. The innovation is an American-Made Solar Prize finalist this year, and its commercial production could receive a big boost via the domestic manufacturing incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act.
A shift to steel frames would reduce supply chain concentration risks and help stabilize prices by enabling large-scale domestic manufacturing. Steel also reduces production-related GHG emissions by 87%, according to a recent report published by Boundless Research.
Newly published initial test results from TECSI Solar also indicate that the Origami roll-formed steel frame design is superior in performance to conventional aluminum frames.
The testing conducted at TECSI Solar compared a 35mm tall Origami steel frame against a 40mm aluminum frame under identical conditions and using identical PV laminates. Report findings:
Top Clamping: Steel frames were tested for compression strength to support typical top clamp loads, which could result in frame buckling or laminate breakage. The Origami steel frame delivered more than sufficient rigidity and stability to resist such loads.
Downforce: The Origami steel frame significantly outperformed the taller aluminum frame in frame wall rigidity, structural stability, and total deflection, even at a 150 psf load. Most importantly, the solar active components of the PV laminate were far better protected from possible damage as validated in EL imaging tests done during testing.
Upforce: When comparing mechanical load performance, the Origami steel frame again outperformed standard aluminum frames – including being able to withstand upforce loading to 135 psf.
Laminate Rigidity: The Origami steel frame maintained laminate rigidity better than aluminum, better protecting the solar cells from cracking under downward loading.
Installation Compatibility: The Origami steel frame was tested for top-clamp and bolt-mounting installations, proving compatibility with existing racking systems.
“Our office has concluded that the Origami steel frame is a suitable candidate for consideration to replace extruded aluminum PV module frames and can provide significantly better performance if properly designed,” said Samuel Truthseeker, Founder and Principal Engineer at TECSI Solar.
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