The plastic backing on solar panels, which protects the silicon wafer — the photovoltaic layer — that generates electricity, is usually made from petroleum-based products. In a word: Unsustainable. California-based BioSolar wants to change that. They’re rolling out a cover made from castor beans and cotton.

The new plastic, called BioBacksheet, costs less to produce than traditional polymer sheets and is just as durable. On top of all that the sheeting doesn’t need the kinds of toxic solvents to make it that ordinary plastics do.

Castor beans, which are commonly used to produce castor oil, a food additive, provide the plastic-like resin, while the cotton fibers — recycled from old rags — give it toughness and help the resin hold its shape.

Because the product promises to lower the cost of making solar panels in the first place, this might speed up the return on investment for businesses and homeowners that do decide to invest in solar set-ups.

Last week BioSolar shipped its first orders, though the company won’t say who the customer is.

Via Business Wire

Credit: Wikimedia Commons