Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A once-dark Polaroid factory goes green

Konarka uses this blue chamber to test solar panels. It re-creates light conditions at noon at the equator. Chris Arnold / NPR

By Chris Arnold

Many old factories around the country now sit dark and empty. But at a once-defunct Polaroid film factory in New Bedford, Mass., the lights are on again and a new industry is rising up inside the ruins of an old one.

The company Konarka makes solar panels, but not the kind most people have seen. These are thin, lightweight, flexible plastic sheets, and that enables them to be used in all sorts of new ways.

"We make what's called plastic solar cells; we call it 'power plastic,' " says Rick Hess, Konarka's chief executive officer.

One type of the power plastic is transparent, so it can be built into windows to let homes or office buildings generate their own solar power. The material can also be sewn onto a bag or briefcase — even something that small will generate electricity. …

A Once-Dark Polaroid Factory Goes Green

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