New hybrid solar energy system uses composites to lower costs

After completing a production prototype and two years of in-house testing, 5D Watts (Sarasota, FL, US), a spin-off of composites fabrication specialist 5D Composite (Sarasota, FL, US), has initiated certification testing with the renewable energy test center (RETC, Fremont, CA, US) for its 5D Watts Hybrid Solar Concentration Photovoltaic and Heat Energy System, made used glass fiber and thermoset resin composites.
Created to exploit the high strength and stiffness, lightweight and durability of composites in new solutions for the solar and hybrid energy market, the patent-pending 5D Watts hybrid solar energy system increases energy production 400% vs. traditional flat-panel systems while offering lower purchase and installation cost.
The latter is enabled by the lightweight, yet durable fiber-reinforced composite construction, which eliminates the need for lifting equipment. The 5D Watts system reportedly can be installed by one person with no part greater than 16 kg. “We have reduced installation to less than 10 minutes,” says CEO Andrew Rekret, “and because of our small footprint and lightweight, we do not require any roof penetrations.”
Rekret explains that the 5D Watts units track the sun using a simple but robuts computer-controlled system and close safely in the event of high wind speeds, as well as at night for cleaning with a built-in washing system. He notes that 5D Watts is a hybrid system, a new type of solar energy collector that can capture both heat and electricity from the sun. It is also smaller because the sun power is concentrated on special cells that achieve a concentration ratio of 1:30.
The 5D Watts system also uses coolant to capture heat energy and make it available for many different applications. The hot “coolant fluid” transfers its heat to an insulated heat storage tank and offers the advantage of producing usable heat even in winter time. “This is new technology for the solar industry, which also has not exploited the advantages of composites,” says Rekret. “We know composites well and are applying two-part polyurethane thermosets, which is also new for this type of fabrication.”
"Having reached the patent pending production-ready stage, 5DWatts is now ready for the final certification process, before beginning early adopters’ installations,” says Rekret. “We have customers ready in Europe, the USA and Canada, as well as a set of installations in the Caribbean and Costa Rica.”
Based on early market response, 5D Watts plans to expand its market presence in a coordinated and strategic way. “We already have organizational people responsible for Europe, which is moving forward aggressively,” says Rekret. Plans are in place for more than 20 key installations in Germany and nearby countries as a first-step in penetrating the European market.
With 5D Composite’s background in pultrusions, tanks and a variety of specialty applications, it understands the weathering, corrosion and UV resistance composites can provide. “We offer a low-cost fiber-reinforced composite product, with weather stability and durability for 25-30 years,” says Rekret, “with the highest solar hybrid photovoltaic and heat energy performance on the market!”
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