There is a new entrant to the realm of solar panel accessories that are said to increase panel performance while decreasing costs. Joining solar trackers and microinverters is a new polymer film called FUSION by Genie Lens Technologies. The film, embossed with microstructures that bend sunlight, may be installed like a sticker on panels already in use, improving by up to 10 percent the amount of sunlight that solar panels convert into electricity.
Furthermore, the technology is cheap and could lower the cost per watt of solar power. Genie Lens says it will increase costs of a solar panel between 1 and 10 percent, but that increase in power output more than makes up for the added costs. Installing the film on panels in the factory is optimal for ensuring the most output at the most reasonable price, but adding the lens aftermarket still has a significant benefit.
Tests at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory show that the film increases panel output on average between 4 and 12.5 percent. Interestingly, the best results came under cloudy conditions when incident light is diffuse, a testament to how the film works.
According to Genie Lens CEO and co-founder Seth Weiss, the polymer film does three things to improve solar panel performance:
- Prevents sunlight from reflecting off the panel’s surface.
- Traps light inside the semiconductor materials within each solar cell that absorb light and convert it to electric current.
- Redirects incoming light so that it travels along the surface of the panel rather than passing through, increasing the chances that it will be absorbed.
In addition to lowering costs per watt by improving panel output, the film could also lower shipping and installation costs by reducing the amount of solar panels needed for a given installation. Also, this film, as opposed to similar products being developed by the likes of Innovalight, can be used on any solar panel, be it the traditional crystalline silicon model or new thin-film technologies.
However, one very important unanswered question about the film is durability. If the cover starts to break down, it could actually inhibit solar electricity generation and hurt rather than help panel performance. Genie Lens Technologies says their product will last 20 years — a time frame comparable to most solar panel warranties — but that assertion has yet to be independently validated.