This steel module frame could increase durability of large format solar panels (and lower costs)

The global solar industry has made tremendous gains in the last decade, with exponential market growth driven by a 90% reduction in panel costs. Module frames could be that next big opportunity to reduce costs. Origami Solar, developer of a patent-pending steel solar module frame, has advanced to the semi-final round of the U.S. Department of Energy’s American-Made Solar Prize competition, based on its innovative module frame design. The company won a $50,000 prize and will next compete for a prize of $100,000.

Origami Solar’s winning innovation is the Origami Folded Frame, a roll-formed steel frame that is lower in material cost, requires less time to make and can be sourced through U.S.-based and other local or regional supply chains. The new frame is readily manufacturable and will meet all IEC and UL standards.

“It is exciting to see Origami Solar recognized by the DOE because steel frames have the potential to improve the mechanical durability of solar panels, especially large-format designs,” commented Jenya Meydbray, CEO of PV Evolution Labs (PVEL), the leading performance and reliability test lab for the downstream solar market. “The reductions in cost and GHG impact from switching to steel are also great news for the industry and the planet. We look forward to testing these frames at PVEL early next year.”

The American-Made Solar Prize is a multi-million-dollar prize competition designed to energize U.S. solar innovation through a series of contests and the development of a diverse and powerful support network that leverages national laboratories, energy incubators, and other resources across the country. The American-Made Solar Prize is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and directed and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Shifting to steel delivers other significant benefits, according to the company, including:

• Over 85% reduction in carbon emissions versus aluminum from production
• Ability to produce steel domestically to accelerate job creation
• Reduced shipping costs and lower GHG production from transport
• Local production in all global markets for enhanced supply chain security
• Enables new module frame-integrated features for greater value

“We’re extremely pleased that the reviewers at DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office determined that our Folded Frame design was worthy of this award,” said Eric Hafter, CEO and Co-founder of Origami Solar. “They concur with our belief that switching from aluminum to steel module frames, which we’ve proven can be done, will transform the solar panel manufacturing industry.”

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