Two inventors have brought their latest invention, dubbed the Pocket Solar Factory, to Kickstarter. It might be the first time a renewable energy manufacturing technology has tried to launch via the crowdfunding site. The two inventors, Shawn Frayne and Alex Hornstein are seeking to raise $50,000 to develop a device that can manufacture reliable, long-lasting small-scale photovoltaics or microsolar, like those used to charge smartphones and other portable devices.
The two are building a machine that will automate the manufacturing process of microsolar, which they say mostly has been carried out by hand, meaning that roughly half the costs of the modules is just in the labor. They also found that most microsolar modules were made with cheap materials, and made cheaply, with about a 15 percent failure rate because of improper soldering. And the plastic coating covering them quickly breaks down. “The encapsulant we use to seal the silicon is superior to the epoxy used in most microsolar panels today,” Frayne said.
By automating the manufacturing process, they are seeking to make microsolar devices for about 30 percent less than what they cost now. And at the same time make modules with higher-quality materials that last much longer, at least 10 years, as opposed to the two years that most last today.
The Pocket Solar Factory, they said would be able to be built anywhere and use, when available, locally sourced PV cells. “ There are PV mono and poly cell producers in a number of countries—but in some areas, we would need to import the PV cells or cartridges of scribed and cut cells,” Frayne said.
“We are projecting our own internal cost for a full fist Solar Pocket Factory to be US$70,000,” Frayne said. “This is the raw cost—this does not have margin built in, or any of our R&D costs. It is just the capital expense (raw and machined materials and off-the-shelf sub systems) of the first machine.”
It looks like they will get the initial $50,000 they’re seeking—if not more. With 21 days left (as of August 23), they’ve already raised more than $30,000. They also sell a DIY Solar Pocket Kit for those interested in making their own solar devices.