American-Made Solar Prize 2022 Finals Submission

September 2022

The American-Made Solar Prize is a multi-million-dollar prize designed to energize U.S. solar innovation through a series of contests and the development of a diverse and powerful support network that leverages national laboratories, energy incubators, and other resources across the country. The American-Made Solar Prize is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and directed and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.


[00:00:00] Eric Hafter: The Origami Solar Team is thrilled to be part of the American Made Solar Challenge GO! Contest. This entire process, starting with our application for the Ready! contest, has made an indelible impact on our company and the industry. The process has led us to question ourselves and key areas needed to build a successful company and accelerate the adoption of our technology solution to the broader market. In particular, we want to thank our Power Connector partners who have been deeply engaged, helpful, and encouraging.

[00:00:25] The aluminum frame for PV modules had virtually no innovation in 40 years, adding considerable risks, costs, and embodied carbon footprint to the solar value chain. Due to ongoing supply chain constraints exacerbated by COVID-19 and the attacks on Ukraine, aluminum prices are on the rise.

[00:00:43] China and Southeast Asia have a virtual monopoly on the worldwide aluminum frame market, which threatens to slow the rebuilding of the U.S. solar industry and energy independence. Also, aluminum conflicts with the notion of solar as a source of clean energy, releasing 217 tons of carbon dioxide for every megawatt of modules produced with traditional aluminum frames.

[00:01:03] Origami Solar is pioneering the use of roll formed, recycled steel frames, replacing imported aluminum frames with U.S.-manufactured steel frames. Our solution reduces the cost of PV solar, reduces the carbon impact, and reshores manufacturing of frames back to the U.S. to support the expected ramp up of domestic module production as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act.

[00:01:24] Origami Solar Frame provides easy integration for module assembly and installation. The steel frame is fully compatible with existing racking and improves performance, cost, supply chain, and GHG footprint with fixed tilt and tracking systems. While our products outperform the standard aluminum frame, it also offers a seamless transition with a form factor that allows switching to Origami steel frames quickly and easily.

[00:01:47] Detailed cost analysis demonstrates the U.S. made steel frames may be priced about $2.70 lower than imported aluminum frames. We have made considerable progress during the GO! contest, further refining our designs, advancing our structural analyses, and completing a round of independent third-party testing.

[00:02:04] Testing during the GO! contest demonstrated our steel frames deliver high strength and performance, protecting the solar active materials and solar panels better than aluminum frames are able to. This is due to the physical properties of steel and our proprietary geometry, which optimizes the capability of roll forming.

[00:02:21] Additionally, through our continued testing, we’ve gained a better understanding about the performance limits of the steel module frame and areas we can improve. For example, we discovered a way to increase the stiffness and strength of our frames without adding more material. As a result of this discovery and talks with potential customers, we have designed and analyzed a second iteration of our frame that is shorter and made with a lighter gauge of steel.

[00:02:44] We’re working with our roll forming manufacturer. During the Go! contest, we filed four new patents with over 100 claims, as well as advanced three earlier patent filings to the PCT stage. Each of these patents explore new product capabilities, refinements, and valuable improvements to our steel frame IP platform.

[00:03:03] In June, the independent firm Boundless Impact published a report that Origami commissioned on the environmental impact of aluminum module frames. They found that an almost 90 percent GHG reduction can be realized by replacing China and Southeast Asia manufactured aluminum module frames with Origami steel frames made in the U.S. and Europe. This is equivalent to reducing GHGs by 188 metric tons. For every megawatt of PV modules produced to meet current global demands for new projects, the solar industry will need 4 billion meters of frames in 2023, growing every year. Origami includes the U.S., Europe, China, and India, which over time grows from 390 to 575 million frames.

[00:03:44] Steel module frames will reshore supply for domestic manufacturers in the U.S., Europe, and India, creating high value jobs, improving logistics, reducing climate impacts, and driving down costs.

[00:04:02] The PV industry has a long history of moving rapidly to adopt better, less expensive and higher performance solutions. Origami firmly believes steel frames will become the standard for the PV industry worldwide, and that the transition will occur within five years. Origami is already the thought and IP leader for steel frame technology with 11 patents filed representing over 450 individual claims. We also bring a compelling time-to-market advantage with us based on almost three years of design, prototyping, testing, and engaging the steel supply chain to support this transition.

[00:04:28] Origami Solar’s founding team brings together 80 plus years of solar industry experience, along with state-of-the-art mechanical engineering and international licensing experience. During the Go! Contest, Origami expanded our team with the addition of Stu Kaler, an intellectual property attorney and strategist with 30 years of IP commercialization experience.

[00:04:46] We have the team in place to fully capitalize on the customer engagements, strategic ecosystem partnerships, and market traction that we have established. The Inflation Reduction Act strongly emphasizes the national security priority for energy independence. It creates the incentives needed to rebuild domestic solar supply chain.

[00:05:02] Shipping aluminum frames from Asia is problematic and counter to this objective. Origami Solar and our growing network of steel ecosystem partners are well positioned to reshore the fabrication of frames for U.S. and European module manufacturers. Origami has validated that our steel frames are cheaper, greener, and higher performing than aluminum frames and can be domestically produced. This is exactly what the U.S. and international solar markets need today. We thank the American-Made Solar Prize competition for their critical support, and we look forward to capitalizing on the market traction that we have generated.