Origami Module Frame Contributes to Decarbonizing the Global Supply Chain

Across the globe, solar PV deployments are forecasted to rapidly expand because of lower levelized-cost-of-energy (LCOE) and superior greenhouse gas performance versus fossil fuel-based electricity. However, not all solar modules are created equal. Differences in materials and supply chain choices can have a substantial impact on the “embodied carbon” adopted or avoided by solar projects. According to the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance the use of materials with lower embodied carbon in PV panels can reduce the carbon footprint by 50% in the US and 70% in Europe.

Origami Solar is committed to supporting and promoting the important work of the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance. In commissioning the Origami Solar Environmental Impact Report, our intent is to provide a rigorous life-cycle based GHG understanding of the environmental impact that aluminum module frames have. Module manufacturers, solar project developers, and investors now have a lower impact and superior performance option with recycled steel module frames.

With a growing focus on transparency and decarbonization across the solar industry, as well as a massive shift to regional module manufacturing, the time has come to make the shifts necessary to deliver low-carbon solar modules. By providing credible GHG data associated with the current production of aluminum frames in China versus Origami Solar’s domestic steel frames we hope to accelerate the solar industry’s transition to a superior domestic solution.

Ultra low-carbon solar alliance logo
Boundless Impact EIA report cover

Boundless Impact Research Scope and Use

As part of this assessment Boundless reviewed the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) Ultra Low Carbon Solar (ULCS) criteria for solar modules, to better understand the role and impact of the module frame within the criteria’s method for calculating a module carbon footprint. Specifically Boundless evaluated the potential to reduce GHG emissions by replacing the standard aluminum frame with Origami’s recycled steel frame. EPEAT, a Type 1 ecolabel managed by the Global Electronics Council (GEC), developed its low carbon solar criteria, in collaboration with the Ultra Low Carbon Solar Alliance, to recognize solar modules with lower GHG emissions, contributing to the decarbonization of the solar manufacturing supply chain.

As illustrated throughout this report, Boundless has developed extensive data on Origami Solar’s carbon footprint and provided a direct comparison with aluminum frames manufactured in China. Solar module manufacturers interested in achieving EPEAT certification can reduce the calculated carbon footprint of their module by replacing the more carbon-intensive aluminum frame with Origami Solar’s recycled steel frame. Further, Origami Solar’s deep understanding of the carbon footprint of its recycled steel frame can support module manufacturers with the required LCA data for utilizing the EPEAT Path B method to capture these benefits for the purposes of securing the EPEAT ecolabel.

Environmental Impact Report Summary

Comparing Origami Solar steel solar module frames to traditional aluminum module frames.

The results are compelling.

The current aluminum frames utilized by the solar industry emit 87 kg of unnecessary GHG emissions per frame and contribute 173,500 tonnes of CO2(e) per GW of solar. A simple switch to recycled steel would reduce that environmental impact over 90%.

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Based on 2 by 1-meter utility sized aluminum frame produced in China vs. the same size frame made from recycled steel and produced in the US and Germany.

The impact is immense. For example, replacing just 10% of the industry’s conventional aluminum solar frames with Origami Solar steel module frames between 2023 and 2030 would reduce GHG emissions by 27 Megatonnes, equivalent to the output of seven coal-fired power plants for an entire year.

Seven coal plant icons


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