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How Butterflies Could Increase PV Efficiency for Solar Energy Installations

Developments in the solar energy industry can come from a multitude of sources. Photovoltaic (PV) panel experts can increase the efficiency of the conversion process. Racking and mounting specialists, like us at Solar FlexRack, can improve the efficiency and durability of PV installations (while simultaneously building on previously unusable terrain like landfills). And of course, government incentives and cost reduction efforts can make it easier for more people to get these materials installed.

Still, when we say that butterflies might hold the key to the next stage of solar energy efficiency, you might be skeptical. A recent study from the University of Exeter recently uncovered a remarkable property of a certain species of butterfly—Cabbage White butterflies—that tends to take flight on cloudy days faster than their contemporaries.

After anatomical analysis, it was revealed that these butterflies hold their wings in a different shape than most of their competitors. This unique V-shape reflects and concentrates sun rays onto the thorax, which then warms the muscles necessary for flight. Because of this, the butterflies can take off faster.

Taking a page from the biomimicry book, scientists now estimate that the simple addition of reflectors (in shape, size, and weight proportional to Cabbage White butterfly wings) could increase the efficiency of solar panels by as much as 50 percent. Assuming the rest of the installation remains more or less the same, implementing this wing structure could reduce the weight of the unit as well, ultimately increasing the power-to-weight ratio of the installation by a factor of 17.

At Solar FlexRack, we’re no strangers to innovation. We’re constantly pushing the limits of what is possible in the realm of solar power. Take, for instance, our FlexRack Series B, which is designed for previously unusable water-saturated terrain. Landfills, brownfields, and marshy areas (which were previously unusable) can now take advantage of the Series B’s unique weight distribution model and turn a wasteland into an energy-generating institution.