This sounds like a pretty significant breakthrough.
From the link:
For years solar companies have wanted to make lightweight, flexible panels that are cheap to ship and easy to install (by unrolling them over large areas). But they’ve been held up by a lack of good and affordable glass substitutes.
Now 3M thinks it’s found a solution. This week the company unveiled a plastic film that it says can rival glass in its ability to protect the active materials in solar cells from the elements and save money for manufacturers and their customers.
The protective film is a multilayer, fluoropolymer-based sheet that can replace glass as the protective front cover of solar panels, says Derek DeScioli, business development manager for 3M’s renewable energy division. Manufacturers laminate the sheets onto the solar panels to seal them tight and shield them from moisture and other weather elements that can be deadly to the solar cells inside.
Solar protection: This polymer film seals out water far better than other plastics—it can protect solar panels for decades.