Alfred Poor: How New CIGS-based EnerPlex Solar Panels Work (analysis)

CIGS tech is behind the latest generation of plastic solar panels — they’re thin, lightweight, flexible and capable of staying charged even when you’re off the grid. Check out Alfred Poor’s EnerPlex video here. — Got CIGS?  No, I’m not trying to bum a smoke, but I’m guessing you and I both will be getting some CIGS soon. Solar panels based on copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) tech are lighter, more flexible and efficient than traditional silicon-based solar panels. And they’re hitting the market now. Here’s how CIGS solar panel tech works. Check out my EnerPlex video, below the fold.

Traditional solar cells comprise slices of crystalline silicon wafers mounted upon glass substrates. That’s why your typical solar panel is so bulky, heavy and fragile. They’re efficient, true, but only when aimed directly at the sun. But CIGS-based solar panels work on glass and plastic substrates. So CIGS panels are more flexible and less fragile.

Better still, unlike your typical crystalline silicon-based solar cells, CIGS devices are able to produce electricity even when there’s no direct sun. At CES 2014, I checked out the light, flexible CIGS solar panels from Ascent Solar Technologies. Its EnerPlex line of solar cells are hitting the market now in a variety of form factors. Here’s a closer look at how CIGS solar panels work and why you should care.

CIGS technology makes this solar panel thin, lightweight, and flexible.

CIGS technology makes this new kind of solar panel thinner and more lightweight and flexible than ever before.

The CIGS-based panels in Ascent’s EnerPlex line show up in products from cell phone cases to huge 19-volt panels.

Take the four-panel Kickr IV. It produces five volts of electricity at up to six watts. That’s about the same capacity as you’d get from most USB wall outlet chargers. The whole thing folds up into a square pack three quarters of an inch thick. That’s about the size of a CD case. Total weight is just more than a half pound. Here’s my hands-on demo of the tech, below.

Video: Alfred Poor for Justin Webb for aNewDomainTV

If the cigs mention at the top of this piece gave you a nicotine jones, be sure to check out my colleague Sandy Berger’s piece on electronic cigarettes.

For, I’m Alfred Poor.

Based in bucolic Bucks County PA, Alfred Poor is a senior technologist here at A 30-year tech journalism vet, he’s internationally renowned for his coverage of displays. He is easily distracted by shiny, sparkly gadgets and that’s why he is covering consumer tech for us, too. Contact Alfred at, follow him @AlfredPoor and find the +Alfred Poor Google+ stream here. Alfred also is a professional speaker, a bluegrass musician and a sailor. Check out his LinkedIn profile for more.

1 Comment