Origami Solar developed the new steel solar module frames in collaboration with global steel industry partners to facilitate a smooth transition to high-volume, regional production.
Oregon-based Origami Solar won the top prize in the US Department of Energy’s American-Made Solar Prize 2022 competition. The patent-pending steel frame is said to reduce costs and improve module performance. According to the company, the frames are made of “green” recycled steel.
Origami Solar was founded by Eric Hafter and Jack Patton in an effort to bring innovation and cost savings to solar module production. The founders noticed that in 20 years, the cost of other module components had decreased, but not the cost of the aluminum frames, which had become a significant part of the cost.
Hafter and Patton were also concerned about the greenhouse gases produced by aluminum production, so they looked at recycled steel instead. According to Origami Solar, the use of aluminum in module frames increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions more than ten times compared to its steel frames. According to the company, the emissions are 14 kg per kilogram of aluminum, while steel production produces about 1.2 kg of greenhouse gases for each kilogram of steel. Recycled steel produces even less greenhouse gases.
“Our Gen 2 frames are lighter, stronger, and ideally suited to provide superior support for the large-scale modules entering the market,” said Gregg Patterson, CEO of Origami Solar. “Working with steel fabricators and precision mills, we’ve designed the Origami steel module frame to fit industry standard frames, making the transition from aluminum to steel seamless in module manufacturing and field installation.”
After working on the process for 12 years, Origami Solar developed a patent-pending frame that can be manufactured using a steel roll forming process. The company reports that the frames meet structural requirements and have an estimated module life of 30 years.
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