Flexible solar technology can be applied to any surface at a fraction of the weight

TGL News

Photograph of Rene Hernandez, Darren Miller, Dr Zhengrong Shi and Kevin Sumption on the Maritime Museum's rooftop
Rene Hernandez, facilities, support services & sustainability manager – Australian National Maritime Museum, Darren Miller, CEO – ARENA, Dr Zhengrong Shi, solar scientist and inventor of the eArche lightweight solar panel, and Kevin Sumption, director & CEO – Australian National Maritime Museum

Flexible solar technology installed on top of the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney could cut the museum’s electricity consumption by as much as 25 per cent.

The lightweight solar array on top of the museum’s Wharf 7 Maritime Heritage Centre, which was revealed last week, is the largest in Australia, with the 235 kW installation made up of 812 panels.

Conventional solar panel technology could not be used on the museum because of the building’s weight constraints and its heritage status. Instead, a lightweight, flexible alternative known as “eArche” was used.

eArche’s light weight, flexibility, high performance and competitive costs means that solar can now be applied to any building design.

Free of glass, eArche is made from a polymer composite material, which makes it very flexible, and up to 75 per cent lighter and 85 per cent thinner than conventional solar panels.

The Maritime Museum’s director and CEO, Kevin Sumption, said the venue had been looking for an alternative to conventional solar panels for some time.

“We came across a unique, glass-free solar panel from SunMan,” Mr Sumption said. “The 5.5 kilogram light-weight panels could overcome the building’s structural challenges and also have the same power output as 20kg conventional panels,” he said.

The technology was also used on the world’s first solar powered train, launched in Byron Bay last year. It was developed by SunMan Energy thanks to a $6.6 million investment from the Southern Cross Renewable Energy Fund and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

SunMan’s founder, Dr Zhengrong Shi, said the technology was developed with irregular surfaces such as the solar train and Maritime Museum’s roof in mind.

“I knew it could unlock the potential for solar on buildings, which were previously unable to support conventional glass solar panels,” Dr Shi said.

“eArche’s light weight, flexibility, high performance and competitive costs means that solar can now be applied to any building design.”

The Maritime Museum’s solar rooftop installation was made possible in part by $13.9 million from the Australian government’s Modernisation Fund.

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