Author profile picture

About Biosphere Solar

  • Founders: Siemen Brinksma
  • Founded in: 2020
  • Employees: 4
  • Money raised: -
  • Ultimate goal: To make the 'solar system' sustainable.

Solar energy is indispensable for a green future. But it also creates a huge waste stream, as conventional solar panels are not recyclable. Start-up Biosphere Solar rose out of TU Delft and wants to be a game changer, by making a circular solar panel and through working with an open source network. Co-founder Perine Fleury brings you up to date on how the start-up is doing in this instalment of Start-up of the day.

What makes your solar panels circular?

“The greatest difference between our solar panels and standard solar panels is that in conventional panels, everything is glued together. It makes them unrecycable. We, on the contrary, are able to take apart all of the materials that we use. We make use of a back glass and a front glass and the cells are in between. Everything is held together with an edge seal that can be reopened. By being able to open up the solar panel, we make it possible to create a material loop in the solar panel system. At the moment, we’re not working with loop systems as it’s impossible to do that with conventional solar panels. But we believe we can be a game changer.”

Why aren’t recyclable solar panels the default option on the market yet?

“The idea of recyclable panels is nothing new. But it hasn’t been economically viable yet to make them. There was no demand for this in the market. However, in western countries we are now really starting to feel the effects of climate change. I think that makes a huge difference.”

What stage is the start-up currently in?

“Lately, we have been working on the design of the solar panels. Right now, we are trying to figure out how to start a production line. We decided we are not going to set up our own production line, so we are looking for partner companies to collaborate with, such as glass manufacturers.”

You are opting for an open source approach. What is the reason behind that?

“Patenting a product has been the way to go for a very long time. But with open source, you enable rapid innovation. And that is something we really need in the solar panel industry. We want to make the most impact as possible, as quickly as possible. By making everything we do open source, we allow bigger players to take a look at what we are doing and make improvements. The open source licensing doesn’t prevent anyone from using it. It does, however, prevent them from patenting it. We are firm believers that companies in the 21st century will thrive by sharing ideas rather than keeping them to themselves.”

What challenges do you face at the moment?

“We are facing several challenges. One of them is that we want to make sure that our solar panels last longer than the average twenty years. On the one hand, we need to put a product on the market that is circular, fair and lasts a long time. But on the other hand, we need to make sure we keep the costs low enough to make our goals feasible. Sometimes it’s hard to find a balance in that.”

Five years from now, what do you hope your start-up will have achieved?

“By that time, we will have a fully working product that is certified and fair trade. We want to be licensing our production to other parts of the world as well. In addition, I think in five years’ time, we will also be working on other challenges in the ‘solar system’, such as batteries that have not yet been made circular. And, last but not least, I hope we will work together with a lot of partners. The stronger our network is, the stronger we are as a company.”