San Jose-based SoloPower celebrated the opening of its new flexible solar panel manufacturing plant in Portland Thursday.
SoloPower's solar panels look like long, laminated poster boards.
At the company's new manufacturing plant in Portland, the panels start out as a 2,000 meter sheet of stainless steel wound around a spool. Machines add layers of material to the sheet over the course of 10 days.
The result is a thin, bendable solar panel that is five times lighter than the ones made with glass.
Company CEO Tim Harris says 70 percent of the commercial and industrial buildings in Portland and Seattle can't handle the heavier panels. That's a lot of potential customers.
"Our module weighs 13 pounds. A traditional model might weigh 55 pounds. If you're doing a standard size rooftop installation, the old technology would be the weight of a Boeing 737 on the roof. Ours would be the weight of a private jet. "
Some industry analysts say the SoloPower panels are unproven and too expensive. But Harris says there's already a lot of demand overseas.
The company still has to add a second production line to its existing plant and two more lines in a nearby building to meet the requirements of a federal loan guarantee.
Find more environmental news on Cassandra's Ecotrope blog.