Sunderland-based solar electricity innovators Power Roll today benefit from a £1 million cash injection to expand production of their light, flexible thin film, billed as a major advance in generating cheap-as-chips clean solar electricity.
Lingering EU money from the European Regional Development Fund contributes a chunk of the cash, aiding one of England’s heaviest Brexit-voting regions.
Power Roll’s solar film is billed as capable of producing “ultra-low-cost” green electricity.
Made at a pilot plant opened last year on Durham County Council’s Jade Business Park, the rolls are claimed to be cheaper to produce than existing flexible solar PV technologies.
The firm’s light-sensitive product is suitable for coating buildings & rooftops, including ones too weak or poorly shaped to bear conventional modules made of glass and aluminium. Uses on vehicles, on portable applications and for off-grid projects are also supported, says the manufacturer.
Glasgow-based investors Maven led a consortium of mainly public investors in Power Roll’s latest funding round. Since 2020, the Scots have invested £2.75 million in the Wearside pioneers.
The latest transaction comprises two investments from Maven-managed regional funds, a £750,000 investment from the North East Development Capital Fund, supported by the European Regional Development Fund, and a £250,000 investment from the Finance Durham Fund, established by Durham County Council and overseen by Business Durham.
Maven’s investment manager Michael Dickens enthused: “We have been pleased to witness the development, technical and commercial milestones Power Roll has achieved with its disruptive solar film technology.
“(The company has) a highly professional team with the right knowledge and scientific experience to drive the business forward and commercialise the technology. With green energy more important than ever, Power Roll looks set to drive innovation and produce next-generation solar solutions to assist with the transition towards a more sustainable electrical generation system.”
Maven’s transaction will enable Power Roll to continue product development, geared to commercialise the PV film on a global scale.
Solar is expected to be the fastest-growing energy sub-segment worldwide this year, with global solar equipment production expected to exceed $220 billion.
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Power Roll’s managing director Neil Spann said: “Maven shares our vision for the future. Our mission is to revolutionise solar energy powering a global rooftop solar revolution from here in County Durham.
“Our solar film has the potential to generate solar energy from the billions of square metres of rooftops where the heavy and rigid silicon panels manufactured in China cannot be deployed.”
Cllr James Rowlandson, portfolio holder for investment & resources, said: “Durham County Council is proud to support Power Roll through our Finance Durham Fund. With this additional investment, we are confident that Power Roll will continue to thrive in County Durham and contribute to the global transition towards net zero.
“The innovative solar film technology developed by Power Roll has the potential to revolutionise the solar energy industry, providing ultra-low-cost green electricity on a global scale. We are excited to see the positive impact this investment will have on both the local economy and the environment.”
Thin film PV has scored only variable success in Britain. In 2015 Chinese manufacturer Hanergy began selling its home-focused panels through a concession in 18 IKEA stores. The partnership failed within two years, killed off as Hanergy’s miserable 12% conversion efficiency confined sales only to roofs of larger homes.
Repeated manipulation of Hanergy’s share price practised by senior managers on the Shanghai stock exchange further disgraced the firm.
Cambridge engineer John Hingley founded Milton Keynes-based Renovagen, promoting containerised solar film, satisfying military and humanitarian needs for remote power. Wound up in 2021 after eight years, the firm since appears to have been re-born.