SCHOTT solutions no. 1/2014 > Solarzellen

With 'Soluxio,' cylindrical solar cells have now been integrated into the light pole. The completely grid-independent street lights that are protected by a high-quality glass casing are extremely durable and maintenance-free – and therefore they are capable of withstanding extreme weather and environmental conditions. Photo: FlexSol Solutions

Light in the Desert

The Dutch start-up company FlexSol Solutions has developed an innovative solution for bringing light into darkness: a modular streetlight with cylindrical solar panels. And the special glass supplied by SCHOTT makes this solution ideally suited for street life.

Sebastian Kirschner

New York, London, Tokyo, Dubai – the streets are alive in these megacities, no matter what the time is. Artificial lighting turns night into day – and sends the electricity costs soaring. Some cities are already using solar streetlights as a way of saving energy. But so far, the solutions have not been ideal. ”Conventional solar panels are flat and do not look particularly attractive, and they are also not optimal for streetlights since dirt can accumulate and reduce their performance,” says Lennert van den Berg, CEO of the start-up FlexSol Solutions.
Photo: FlexSol Solutions
The Dutch entrepreneur and his team rose to the challenge and developed the lighting solution ”Soluxio.” What makes this product special is that its cylindrical solar panels are integrated into the light pole. But Van den Berg not only wanted to design a streetlight that meets aesthetic standards and fits into the cityscape. His aim was for the solar streetlights to also withstand extreme weather and environmental conditions. And since he needed to protect the sensitive solar cells with a high-quality glass casing, Van den Berg contacted SCHOTT.

”When we heard about this innovative idea, our DURAN® glass tube made of borosilicate glass instantly came to mind,” says Klaas Roelfsema, Regional Sales Manager at SCHOTT Tubing. The Soluxio developers needed extremely thin glass that is barely re­flective, long lasting and robust enough for use on the streets. ”We also wanted our product to be as light as possible,” says Van den Berg. The reason is Soluxio’s pole. It also consists of individual modules made of aluminum that are lightweight and designed to reduce loading. But therefore off-the-shelf glass was either too heavy or not strong enough. Roelfsema: ”SCHOTT DURAN® was able to meet all of these requirements. The glass has to have a diameter of 20 centimeters, but it is only three millimeters thick and can withstand the severest environmental conditions.” The special glass tubes also cope well with temperature changes. ”But the main point is that SCHOTT DURAN® prevents unwanted reflection and can easily be mounted thanks to its high dimensional accuracy,” says Roelfsema. Van den Berg is also happy. ”We are experimenting a lot with glass, and are also using DURAN® glass tubes in many other products we are currently developing.” But finding the right glass was only part of the challenge for the start-up FlexSol. ”The most difficult thing was financing,” van den Berg recalls. Only then could FlexSol really get started on cylindrical solar panels. With the support of partners and pole specialists Sapa Pole Products, the Dutch firm developed the Soluxio light pole in just two years. This was also made possible with the help of SCHOTT. Van den Berg thinks highly of the company. ”SCHOTT is one of the largest glass manufacturers in the world, so we were delighted at how flexible and willing its experts were in supporting our project.”
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”Sustainability is an important aspect”

Sustainability plays an important role in these innovative solar street lights. Thanks to their special design, they lower electricity costs and deliver full performance. Furthermore, they are made of recyclable materials. Photo: FlexSol Solutions
The hard work has certainly paid off. Both the product itself and Soluxio’s individual components are sustainable. The autonomous solar light pole does not merely help to reduce CO₂ emissions. ”All of the materials can be completely recycled,” van den Berg adds. Soluxio’s success has shown that van den Berg was right to focus on quality. A shipload of Soluxio streetlights will soon be installed in the Middle East – in Qatar and Abu Dhabi, where dust and desert sand can create problems for the solar panels in the lights. But thanks to the robust glass surface, this is not an issue. ”Our glass provides Soluxio with the perfect protection against abrasion and with optimal UV stability,” Roelfsema says. And that is just as it should be, since further Soluxio projects are also set for Dubai and Saudi Arabia in the coming months. <