The worldwide specialist in printing techniques based in Nantes is the first manufacturer to market flexible photovoltaic film, offering a multitude of applications.
Hubert de Boisredon is convinced that flexible photovoltaic film is “the new material of the 21st century”. “Solar energy will save the world because it will never run out,” says the CEO of the Armor group in Nantes, one of the world’s leading manufacturers in thermal transfer ribbon (barcode label printing) and printer cartridges. The rest of the planet remains to be convinced! Merging flexibility and lightness, this technological innovation promises endless applications. “Like an electronic skin, these films can cover fragile structures that cannot support photovoltaic panels,” argues the industry leader, “it is a complementary product. In addition, our organic polymer films do not contain silicon or rare metals.”
As well as covering buildings, these films can be used as both sensors and receivers in connected objects, transportation or street furniture. “They are specifically aimed at the smart city,” adds Hubert de Boisredon. As a result, Armor is leading an experiment with JC Decaux in Caen on a pilot bus shelter. Admittedly, the yield of flexible film does not yet match that of photovoltaic panels (1), but the technology is constantly evolving. The strength of Armor is in their industrial approach, unlike other global players with similar innovations. In fact, in 2016 the group invested in a film production machine with a capacity of 1 million square metres.
Reforestation of the Sahara
The ambition of the Nantes industrialist is to become the world leader in this net-zero energy technology. Hubert de Boisredon is counting on the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and its funding to achieve this. He was invited, together with about twenty other manufacturers, to participate in the launch of the ISA in India in March (see page ??). “We are already thinking of working with Engie,” he continues. In Africa, where access to electricity remains an issue, Armor’s films can easily supply businesses and charge mobile phones. Tests have recently been conducted with Orange on the Ivory Coast. Another idea is to take part in the Sahara reforestation programme by deploying film under which crops would be grown.(1) 3 to 4 times lower energy production than that of a photovoltaic panel for a given surface area, but 10 times better in terms of weight.
Mobile solar power plants
Armor’s organic photovoltaic film can be rolled out like a carpet and can be installed anywhere, without a building permit. “Thousands of square meters of space are available in cities, stadiums and car parks, for example,” points out Hubert de Boisredon. Many places where reels could be swiftly rolled out to provide energy when and where space becomes available. “These mobile solar plants would prevent the destruction of farmland to make room for photovoltaic panels.” At the end of the day, the most difficult thing according to Armor’s CEO is to “change attitudes and industry standards”.