Replex Plastics is going after the potentially huge solar power market.
The Mount Vernon, Ohio, firm has been developing more efficient mirrors to collect solar energy. The company is a thermoformed-dome and mirror specialist that is attempting to marry the two technologies to come up with efficient, durable solar collectors.
Replex recently was awarded a $350,000 advanced energy grant under Ohio's Third Frontier Project. Replex President Mark Schuetz said his company will kick in another $175,000 to complete funding for two years of development work.
Replex has built prototype mirrors and is interested in collaborating with companies that can provide other parts of a solar collection system. The firm's work includes making collectors for photovoltaic systems, collectors for thermal systems that turn concentrated sunlight into heat, and daylight systems that divert sunlight into a dwelling to replace artificial lighting.
``We can offer commercial products, but we lack supporting technology,'' Schuetz said in a telephone interview. ``We believe it will be a really big industry.''
Right now, the solar collection industry is fragmented, with many small players at various stages of development and tackling various problems.
Most of Replex's work has been with acrylic sheet. The material's advantages include formability, transparency to a wide part of the sun's spectrum and ultraviolet-light stability. Replex has some data on long-term durability from transportation and security mirrors it has made in the past. They provide some anecdotal evidence of durability, but more testing needs to be done before the company can offer the 20-year warranty the industry is likely to demand.
Schuetz said his company began working on solar collectors 18 months ago, long before it was aware of any grant possibilities.