Whitehead & Associates and MiaSolé Partner to Sell Solar Modules

Whitehead & Associates Inc., a power and energy solutions and services company that provides a wide range of custom electrical applications, and MiaSolé have entered into a sales representative agreement. Whitehead & Associates will sell MiaSolé FLEX modules in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Whitehead & Associates services virtually every branch of the electrical industry, including the electric utility, commercial and industrial, large power users, and all lighting markets. Established in 1968, Whitehead & Associates has more than 45 years of rock-solid results and reputation to bolster their portfolio of offerings.

Whitehead & Associates will sell MiaSolé FLEX modules, the most efficient thin-film lightweight flexible modules on the market today—with an efficiency rating of more than 16 percent—generating the most power possible. The FLEX-02 Series module is available in two formats. The FLEX-02W module is 39.3 by 102.3 inches and is rated at 360 watts, and designed for low-slope commercial single-ply roof systems. The FLEX-02N module is 14.6 by 102.3 inches and is rated at 120 watts, and designed specifically for standing-seam metal roofs. Both FLEX-02 Series modules bond to the roof surface with a simple peel-and-stick adhesive. This adhesive approach eliminates the need for racking and reduces labor and logistics cost to provide a 20 percent lower BOS cost than traditional glass solar systems. The FLEX-02 Series module is IEC 61646 & IEC 61730 and UL 1703 certified.

“This is an exciting engagement for Whitehead & Associates to represent MiaSolé FLEX modules,” says Scott Whitehead, president at Whitehead & Associates. “This high-performance solar roofing in such a lightweight form can serve a variety of markets, including commercial, industrial, auto and off-grid. Whitehead & Associates will continue to bring innovative products and value to our customers so they can maximize energy efficiency in a cost-effective manner.”

The FLEX-02 module provides Whitehead & Associates’ customers significant benefits. The low weight of the module (less than 0.7 pounds per square foot) allows installation on roofs that cannot support the weight of traditional glass solar panels. Because the FLEX-02 panels adhere directly to the roof surface, there are no penetrations, eliminating the worry of leakage and damage to valuable contents within the building. The FLEX-02 also is aesthetically pleasing, blending into metal and TPO roofs and preserving the original look of the roof. The low-profile FLEX-02 module provides superior wind resistance and a seismic advantage over traditional rack-and-panel systems where their higher profile increases the likelihood of damage in a hurricane or earthquake.

ClearWorld and MiaSolé Partner to Provide Flexible Solar Panels

ClearWorld and MiaSolé entered into an agreement in which MiaSolé will be the supplier of flexible solar panels for ClearWorld’s LED lighting system, RETROFLEX.

ClearWorld and MiaSolé entered into an agreement in which MiaSolé will be the supplier of flexible solar panels for ClearWorld’s LED lighting system, RETROFLEX.

ClearWorld LLC, a renewable energy system solution provider, and MiaSolé have entered into an exclusive Multi-MW agreement in which MiaSolé will be the sole supplier of flexible, lightweight solar panels for ClearWorld’s unique LED lighting system, RETROFLEX. “MiaSolé’s unique cell design and flexible module enables a host of non-standard applications,” says Jeff Zhou, MiaSolé CEO. “We are very excited to see our technology used in such an innovative and game-changing application as the ClearWorld RETROFLEX LED Light.”

ClearWorld RETROFLEX, available internationally, is a patented lighting technology that brings clear cost-saving and environmental benefits to clients. RETROFLEX light poles harness solar energy and provide outdoor lighting that preserves resources, requires no moving parts, and is virtually maintenance-free. The RETROFLEX unit supports wireless monitoring for faults, as well as wireless programming, including dimming capabilities. Its unique design allows the panels to be affixed to any dimension, diameter or finish, and will work with any existing pole without compromising the integrity of its design.

MiaSolé FLEX is uniquely well-suited to this application as the lightweight, flexible solar modules wrap around the base of the light structure, eliminating the solar rectangle “wing” design of typical solar streetlight panels and dramatically reducing build-up of dust and bird droppings that decrease module efficiency. The modules on a RETROFEX unit require very little maintenance when compared to glass panels installed at an angle of 30 degrees. The vertical installation also reduces the chance of vandalism and theft, and preserves the aesthetic appeal of the light. In addition, attaching FLEX modules directly to the cylindrical shape of the pole increases resistance to wind. A traditional solar light with rectangular panel can withstand 70 to 90 mph winds while a light powered by a MiaSolé flexible module can withstand 150-plus mph. The curved design also performs better in high temperatures.

MiaSolé FLEX modules are efficient thin-film lightweight flexible modules with an efficiency rating of 16 percent. For ClearWorld, the power generated by a MiaSolé module is sufficient to charge a backup battery that can power an LED streetlight for up to eight days, meaning even in times of inclement weather the light will be operational. According to ClearWorld CEO Larry Tittle, “This exclusive supplier agreement with MiaSolé will provide ClearWorld with the capability to achieve its goal of bringing clear cost-saving and environmental benefits to our clients.”

Because solar-powered lighting is self-contained, it is off-grid and can be used in remote installations and is unaffected by power outages. It is ideal for roadways, sidewalks, apartment and condominium complexes, corporate and industrial parking lots, retail parking lots, university campuses, government institutions, and military installations.

A New Report Finds Sustainable Roofs Deliver Millions in Benefits to ‘Roof Aware’ Cities

“Roof Awareness” has come a long way during the years. It used to be that people only thought about their roofs when something went wrong. Building owners then started realizing that making smart choices about the roof could save money on energy costs. Roofs are now seen as essential platforms for cities to meet energy-efficiency and renewable-energy goals, to improve the health and quality of residents’ lives, and to achieve social equity. A new effort to better quantify those benefits and costs shows cities with good roof awareness are reaping millions in economic benefits.

TABLE 1: Summary of cost-benefit analysis results (NOTE: There is no internal rate of return, simply payback, or benefit-to-cost ratio for rooftop PV because we all rooftop PV systems are financed with a PPA [so there is no upfront cost to DGS]).

TABLE 1: Summary of cost-benefit analysis results (NOTE: There is no internal rate of return, simply payback, or benefit-to-cost ratio for rooftop PV because we all rooftop PV systems are financed with a PPA [so there is no upfront cost to DGS]).

With that change in role comes new challenges for evaluating what type of roof makes sense for building owners and cities alike. There are well-developed building models and field studies that give us great insight into how sustainable roofing—that is, reflective, vegetated or solar roofs—saves energy and energy costs. But there is not a single tool that could evaluate all the benefits that accrue from good roofing choices beyond energy savings, such as better health, enhanced air quality, greater stormwater management and improved social conditions. Until now, that is.

A recently released report—the “Affordable Housing Smart Roof Report”—from Washington, D.C.-based Capital E, a firm dedicated to accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy, now allows city officials and owners of affordable housing developments to see and calculate the full lifetime costs and benefits of roof decisions. “This is the first model that helps the user puta dollar value on the various benefits of sustainable roofing options. We see this as a great tool for contractors looking to quantify the full benefits of sustainable roofing for their potential clients. It will also help city officials to enact policies that recognize the value of smarter roofing that may not be directly visible on the building owner’s books,” says Keith Glassbrook, a Capital E senior analyst and one of the lead developers of the new model.

TABLE 2: Present value summary of costs and benefits for the three technologies on all low-slope DGS roofs (NOTE: All PV is financed with a PPA so there is no upfront cost to DGS; results may not sum due to rounding).

TABLE 2: Present value summary of costs and benefits for the three technologies on all low-slope DGS roofs (NOTE: All PV is financed with a PPA so there is no upfront cost to DGS; results may not sum due to rounding).

Building the Tool

Rather than reinventing the wheel, Capital E identified existing tools, models and methods from the huge base of existing science for each item in its cost-benefit analysis. The model integrates these individual, detailed components into a form that is accessible and easy to use for non-scientists and that provides straightforward results in dollars per square foot.

The model is an extension of an analysis undertaken for the Washington, D.C., Department of General Services (DGS) as part of its Smart Roofs Initiative. The initiative is designed to help Washington achieve its aspirations to become the greenest, healthiest, most equitable city in the U.S. by using the roofs of city-owned buildings more thoughtfully. DGS owns and controls more than 400 buildings in Washington, including office buildings, schools and hospitals. The city is using this portfolio (28 million square feet of buildings with approximately $62 million in annual energy expenditures) to drive deep improvements in energy efficiency and achieve other objectives.

Like a growing number of cities, Washington, D.C., is committed to using its roofs to deploy photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, cool roofs to reflect sunlight and reduce unwanted heat gain in summer, and green roofs to cut stormwater runoff that results in water pollution and requires construction of expensive water-treatment plants and other grey infrastructure. Tommy Wells, a former councilmember and current director of the District Department of the Environment, summarized the reasons in the Smart Roof cost-benefit report’s press release: “Past research shows that ‘smart’ roof strategies that reduce extreme temperatures in buildings can literally save lives. This new report provides additional justification for cool, green, and solar roofing solutions by showing that they also make compelling financial sense as we work to make D.C. a healthier and more sustainable city.”

Washington has been among the most advanced cities in the nation in deploying sustainable roof technologies. But because there was no established methodology for quantifying the full cost and benefits—including health benefits—for any of these technologies, Washington to date had not been able to quantify the full costs and benefits of these roof choices or compare the merits of each to make informed decisions about which technologies to deploy and at what scale. The analysis undertaken by Capital E to remedy this issue concluded that DGS’ Smart Roofs program can deliver between $47 and $335 million in benefits to the city over 40 years, depending on the roof technology chosen.

More Analysis

A parallel analysis was funded by the New York-based JPB Foundation, which seeks to enhance the quality of life in the U.S. by creating opportunities for those in poverty, promoting pioneering medical research, and enriching and sustaining the environment. JPB Foundation launched its analysis based on the success of this initial analysis by DGS. This time, the model was adapted to evaluate actual affordable-housing buildings in Baltimore; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C. The sample buildings, which were part of the National Housing Trust, Washington, or Columbia, Md.-based Enterprise Community Partners Inc.’s portfolios, included steep- and low-slope roofs, high- and low-rise structures, as well as some attached row houses. The project team for this study included the National Housing Trust; Washington-based American Institute of Architects; Washington-based Global Cool Cities Alliance; Enterprise Community Partners; and U.S. Green Building Council, Washington. In each city and building type evaluated, the model found sustainable roofs would generate more benefits than they cost (first cost and maintenance) and would, in some cases, have an immediate payback.

The results were variable by building and city but they confirmed that sustainable roofing was the superior economic choice compared to traditional dark roofs in the cities studied.

The JPB Foundation analysis shows there is no one-size-fits-all solution to maximize value with sustainable roofing. For example, green roofs made the most sense in Washington, D.C., because of the city’s stormwater rules. On the building in Baltimore, cool roofs were the best choice. The results were variable by building and city but they confirmed that sustainable roofing was the superior economic choice compared to traditional dark roofs in the cities studied.

A second phase is currently underway by JPB Foundation to extend the model to large areas of cities to capture the impact of sustainable roofs at a community scale, as well as other technologies, such as reflective pavements, and to better quantify some of the social benefits of cooler, more enjoyable surroundings.

Contractors Benefit from GAF Vendor Partnerships

GAF continues to offer those contractors participating in its GAF Certified Contractor Program business-building benefits through vendor partnerships. So far in 2015, the company has added four additional relationships that contractors can take advantage of to help make running a business easier.

Roofer’s Choice Insurance is a roofing-specific insurance agency based out of Texas that offers insurance coverage in all 50 states. Its mission is to provide coverage that will protect businesses in the event of a loss. Offerings include general liability, worker’s compensation, a full range of employee benefits, a human resources department, a payroll service and more. Have you had claims denied or are you worried about coverage issues pertaining to your current insurance program? Roofer’s Choice Insurance offers free evaluations of your current insurance portfolio.

Enrolling in the Contractor’s Financial Services accelerated payment program provides accelerated (usually within 24 hours) and predictable A/R cash flow, generates immediate working capital to bid more jobs without incurring debt, and makes the contractor’s invoicing and accounts receivable management simpler, more professional, and less costly.

JumpHawk builds a website in contractor’s key markets. The company’s HawkSite technology has been tested with GAF Master Elite Contractors with incredible results—JumpHawk successfully demonstrated its ability to deliver top organic (free) rankings for hundreds of relevant search terms. So when homeowners are searching for roofing products and services on the Internet, companies using this technology will be at the top of the ranking results.

Admirals Bank is a federally chartered financial institution operating in all 50 states. The bank has a history of uncovering niche markets and has pioneered lending in the residential solar market. GAF has partnered with Admirals Bank to offer its contractors a broad and innovative program for home improvement and residential renewable energy customers.

“A critically important part of our CCP offering is our vendor-partner relationships. Helping our contractors create more leads, grow their sales, and build their business capabilities is another way we can assist them,” states Jim Slauson, vice president of GAF’s Certification Program and Services. “We are pleased to be adding these new vendors to our ‘Tools 4 Success’ vendor portfolio to further assist our CCP contractors.”

Ecotech Institute Clean Jobs Index: 1.2 Million Green Energy Jobs Posted in First Quarter

Ecotech Institute’s Clean Jobs Index reported more than one million green energy job postings across the nation in the first quarter of 2015. The Clean Jobs Index classifies clean energy jobs based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics description, which says that clean jobs are jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. The classification also includes jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

Ecotech Institute, a school dedicated solely to renewable energy and sustainability, created the Clean Jobs Index to provide objective information about renewable energy jobs and to compare states’ use and development of clean and sustainable energy.

“As more businesses look for ways to conserve energy and renewables continue to gain traction, more jobs are becoming available,” says Chris Gorrie, Ecotech Institute’s president. “States have come to see clean energy sources as an important piece of infrastructure, opening the door to great opportunities in renewable energy.”

Highlights from the Clean Jobs Index Q1 2015

    Number of U.S. Clean Jobs Postings in Q1 2015:

  • 1.2 million
    Top three states with the most clean jobs openings:

  • California – 131,215 job openings
  • Texas – 90,281 job openings
  • New York – 71,748 job openings
    States with the highest rise in clean jobs openings, compared to Q1 2014:

  • Rhode Island
  • New York
  • Texas
  • North Carolina
  • Maryland
    States with most clean jobs per 100,000 people:

  • North Dakota
  • Iowa
  • Rhode Island
  • Colorado
  • Wyoming
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Ohio
  • Indiana
  • South Dakota

Ecotech Institute’s Clean Jobs Index is an aggregation of statistics by state. Although it may indicate a greater possibility for employment in the clean economy sector, the Clean Jobs Index in no way indicates the presence or the promise of any specific job opportunities. Data for the index is gathered regularly from independent research entities including: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Green Building Council.

FERC Report: Renewable Energy Sources Provide More than 75 Percent of U.S. Generating Capacity

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower combined provided more than 75 percent (75.43 percent) of the 1,229 MW of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first quarter of 2015. The balance (302 MW) was provided by natural gas.

Specifically, during the quarter, eight new “units” of wind came on line with a combined capacity of 647 MW—accounting for 52.64 percent of all new generating capacity for the quarter. It was followed by 30 units of solar (214 MW), one unit of geothermal steam (45 MW), and one unit of hydropower (21 MW). Five units of natural gas provided the new capacity from that sector.

FERC reported no new capacity from biomass sources for the quarter nor any from coal, oil or nuclear power.

The numbers for the first three months of 2015 are similar to those for the same period in 2014 when renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided 1,422 MW of new capacity and natural gas 159 MW while coal and nuclear provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity last year.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.92 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water—8.53 percent, wind—5.65 percent, biomass—1.38 percent, solar—1.03 percent, and geothermal steam—0.33 percent. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.11 percent) and oil (3.92 percent) combined. Moreover, as noted, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold.

“The trend lines for the past several years have been consistent and unmistakable,” notes Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Each month, renewable energy sources—particularly wind and solar—increase their share of the nation’s generating capacity while those of coal, oil and nuclear decline.”

Baker Roofing: 100 Years of ‘Always Good Work’

Baker Roofing Co., a full-service building envelope contractor, was founded in 1915 in Raleigh, N.C., by William Prentiss Baker. At the time of its founding, Baker Roofing employed only a handful of workers at its Davie Street address in downtown Raleigh. Since its founding, the company has grown to become one of Raleigh’s largest employers. In addition, Baker Roofing’s footprint stretches across the Southeast with offices spanning six states and 18 cities. In fact, at the beginning of 2015, it opened offices in Orlando and Jacksonville, Fla.

Whether you ask a new employee or one of the many employees who have been working at Baker Roofing for decades, they will give the same resounding response that Baker Roofing stakes its reputation, growth and business on its 100-year-old promise of “Always Good Work”.

Whether you ask a new employee or one of the many employees who have been working at Baker Roofing for decades, they will give the same resounding response that Baker Roofing stakes its reputation, growth and business on its 100-year-old promise of “Always Good Work”.

The company continues to be family-owned and operated by W.P. Baker’s grandsons, brothers W. Prentiss Baker III, chairman and co-owner, and Frank Baker, vice chairman and co-owner. Prentiss recollects the company’s founding, “When my grandfather founded the company, he did so with the desire to be the best roofing contractor possible, but I wonder if he ever imagined it would grow into the organization it is today.”

Baker Roofing’s humble, yet confident, beginnings were displayed in its original promise to its clients. Frank Baker describes the foundation for the company’s growth: “When Granddad founded the company, it was during a time in our nation’s history that offered many hurdles for a new business to overcome. Despite this, when he opened the shop, he proudly displayed a sign that’s promise endures to this day: ‘We shall do good work, at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always good work.’”

This year, Baker Roofing celebrates 100 years of upholding the promise W.P. Baker made in 1915. Although the company has grown to employ more than 1,000 people and offer specialty services beyond roofing, like renewable energy and historic renovations, the legacy of “Always Good Work” has never left the DNA of the organization. “As we grow as an organization, the culture of ‘Always Good Work’ continues to drive so much of what we do each and every day,” says Mark Lee, Baker Roofing’s president. “From Nashville, Tenn., to Orlando, Fla., project safety to quality control, multi-megawatt solar systems to residential roof repairs, we will never outgrow or outpace our enduring commitment to the foundation laid 100 years ago.”

Whether you ask a new employee or one of the many employees who have been working at Baker Roofing for decades, they will give the same resounding response that Baker Roofing stakes its reputation, growth and business on its 100-year-old promise of “Always Good Work”.

Learn More about Baker’s 100 Years of History

More information, including a video, about Baker’s 100 years of history and celebration can be found on Baker Roofing‘s website at AlwaysGoodWork.com.

PHOTO: Baker Roofing Co.

MiaSolé and McElroy Metal Partner to Sell Thin Film Solar Modules

MiaSolé Hi-Tech, a subsidiary of Hanergy, announced a partnership with McElroy Metal to sell MiaSolé FLEX series, thin film solar modules as part of McElroy Metal’s solar panel solutions. The MiaSolé thin film modules carry a 15.5 percent efficiency rating with a simple peel-and-stick application method that reduces balance of system costs by 20 percent. McElroy will offer MiaSolé modules factory laminated directly to its metal roof panels to create a lightweight, low-profile solar energy solution durable in extreme, high-wind and seismic zones and on buildings with limited load bearing roofs.

McElroy also markets a complete solar kit for McElroy standing seam, low-slope, storage unit and carport metal roofs. By providing square footage and location, McElroy can provide a complete, pre-engineered solar package with MiaSolé modules, inverter and balance of system components.

The MiaSolé and McElroy Metal partnership combines many advantages for architects, developers, builders and contractors. The 25-year—or more—power output of the MiaSolé FLEX series modules compliments the long service life of metal roofs. Options for factory-applied FLEX modules to metal panels can further reduce onsite installation costs and contribute to consistent quality.

“Today, solar is becoming a standard part of the building envelope,” says Ken Gieske, vice president of marketing for McElroy Metal. “Our partnership with MiaSolé expands our support of green building initiatives and the growing demand for renewable energy as an industry standard.”

Anil Vijayendran, head of product management at MiaSolé, adds: “We are excited to partner with McElroy Metal. With a high efficiency rating for thin film, the MiaSolé FLEX series modules enable roof manufacturers to install a renewable energy solution on roofs and structures previously restricted by wind, seismic and weight limited building structures.”

Solar Roof Energy Is the Answer for Mega Cities of the Future

Seven billion people will live and work in urban areas by 2050 and the demand for energy for all these people will be huge. Local production of energy will be needed with building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) key to make cities at least partially self-sufficient with energy. Rapid development in thin-film solar cell efficiency strengthens the business case for BIPV with great opportunities for suppliers of roofing materials and construction companies.

The electricity produced by ‘roof solar energy’ could be used for heating, cooling, running office machinery or even fed back to the grid, earning the building owners money.

The electricity produced by ‘roof solar energy’ could be used for heating, cooling, running office machinery or even fed back to the grid, earning the building owners money.

More than half of the planet’s population lives in urban regions today. This will grow to 75 percent in the next 30 to 35 years. That would mean 7 billion people living in more or less congested areas, all needing shelter, food—and lots of energy.

There is a growing consensus that the mega cities in the future cannot rely entirely on energy produced far away. Besides supply constraints, there are energy losses in the transport of the electricity; logistical nightmares; security issues; and, of course, environmental concerns.

There is a very healthy debate about distributed energy generation, often defined as electricity generation from many small sources. This discussion must be encouraged. We simply cannot solve the energy challenges of tomorrow with energy solutions of yesterday.

The distributed energy discussion has so far mainly centered on local smaller power plants, district energy, more efficient electricity distribution, the ‘smart grid’, etc. That is good. But we must also talk about the potential for local production of renewable energy by the end users on a micro scale, the very individuals who consume all this energy.

What do the end users have in common? Well, they all need a roof over their heads, at home and at work. These roofs can produce renewable energy! So the building industry can play a major role in solving mega cities’ energy challenges.

Building-integrated photovoltaics can be incorporated into the construction of new buildings as a principal or ancillary source of electrical power, and existing buildings may be retrofitted with similar technology.

Building-integrated photovoltaics can be incorporated into the construction of new buildings as a principal or ancillary source of electrical power, and existing buildings may be retrofitted with similar technology.

Look at an aerial image of a city and you will see an area densely covered by buildings—crisscrossed by roads and the occasional recreational area. All these buildings—houses, apartments, garages, offices, factories, schools and municipal buildings of all sorts—have roofs. New development in solar energy has transformed all these roofs—and even walls—into potential giant solar energy receivers.

The electricity produced by ‘roof solar energy’ could be used for heating, cooling, running office machinery or even fed back to the grid, earning the building owners money.

What I call ‘roof energy’ is building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), one of the fastest-growing segments of the photovoltaic industry. Photovoltaic materials are used to replace (or are added onto) conventional building materials in not only roofs, but also skylights and facades. They can be incorporated into the construction of new buildings as a principal or ancillary source of electrical power, and existing buildings may be retrofitted with similar technology.

Traditional wafer-based silicon solar cells are efficient but rigid, thick and heavy, ideal for large solar parks in sparsely populated areas but not in dense cities. They are too heavy for most roofs. However, thin-film solar cells made out of a copper-indium-gallium-selenium metal alloy (CIGS) are thin, light and flexible. They can be made frameless, can be bent, and are ideal for buildings and other structures that are uneven, moving or weak.

The business case for thin-film solar cells is strengthening rapidly since they are becoming increasingly efficient. A Swedish supplier of thin-film solar cell manufacturing equipment has managed to increase the aperture efficiency (the area on the solar panel that collects energy) from 6 percent four years ago to 11 percent two years ago and a record breaking 17 percent today by using a revolutionary all-dry, all vacuum process where all layers are deposited by sputtering.

An office, school, storage facility or factory with a flat roof in a Mediterranean country like Italy could annually yield 1,250 kWh from every kW installed, at a production cost of 7.2 U.S. cents. The production cost would decrease if the roof is slanted by up to 20 percent for an optimal 35-degree angle. The production cost would obviously be higher in colder countries and lower in countries nearer the equator. But even in Sweden the production cost could be as low as 8 cents.

Thin-film solar cells made out of a copper-indium-gallium-selenium metal alloy (CIGS) are thin, light and flexible.

Thin-film solar cells made out of a copper-indium-gallium-selenium metal alloy (CIGS) are thin, light and flexible.

A production cost of 5 to 10 cents is well below the current—not to mention the expected future—electricity prices. There are great variations in the price of electricity today, but many users pay between 10 and 30 cents per kWh (including taxes). Commercial and residential users pay even more.

The $100bn global roofing material market is in a healthy state, growing at 3.7 percent per annum and driven by an uptick in residential building construction (especially reroofing) in developed and developing markets. Here is an excellent opportunity for architects, roofing material suppliers and construction companies to take a leading position in what is destined to be the material of choice for urban planners in the future.

Thin-film BIPV solar energy solutions can be made light and are flexible. They can be fitted or retrofitted onto roofs without perforating the roofs and can be curved or bent. Installation is easy and cost-efficient with no racks or ballast needed. There are no weight constraints and no access limitations (you can walk on the panels). And they can be integrated on bitumen and TPO membranes.

Selling roofing solutions and electricity together opens up to completely new business models: suppliers can offer a discounted roofing price in combination with a stable and independent supply of electricity. Customers can secure electricity price—and get a new roof.

Municipalities and city planners in today’s and tomorrow’s mega cities will make efforts to make their cities greener and more sustainable. It is no wild guess that green buildings with ‘roof energy’ systems will get preferential treatment in public tenders and maybe even subsidies. Building owners will like the prospect of lower energy costs.

So the question to the world’s architects, roof manufacturers and construction companies is: Do you feel lucky? Do you feel confident enough to keep doing business as usual, selling traditional roofs to consumers who might sooner than expected demand energy-producing and cost-saving roofs and buildings? Or will you grab an unparalleled opportunity to gain market share by offering state-of-the-art products that will change the world or at least the way the world’s urban population powers their daily lives?

For me, the answer is simple: If end users can produce part of the energy consumed in a sustainable fashion where they live and work, that would go a long way toward solving the energy and climate challenges of the future. Flexible, efficient, thin-film solar cells for buildings are an integral part of this solution.

French Kings, Solar Power and Sustainability

Louis XIV is not a frequent reference point in today’s discussions about the world’s energy and sustainability paths. However, this longest ruling French monarch (1643-1715) was known as the “Sun King” as he often referred to himself as the center of the universe and was enamored of the sun itself. He also was the builder of Versailles, the construction of which was viewed as very innovative for its day with gardens and roads that Louis XIV arrayed in a pattern to track the sun’s movements.

2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

With this in mind, it is not such a stretch to understand why the organizers of the 2014 International Solar Decathlon chose the Versailles grounds in which to hold this extraordinary exhibition, from which I have recently returned. The 15-day exhibition featured more than 20 universities from around the world, with Brown University/Rhode Island School of Design and Appalachian State University as the two U.S. competitors.

During each day of the competition, the entrants were subjected to judges’ inspection to assess performance in categories, such as architecture, communications (ability to literally tell their house’s story to press and visitors), energy efficiency, engineering and construction, and sustainability.

PIMA’s sponsorship of Appalachian State and the providing of polyiso insulation by Atlas Roofing to ASU demonstrated the role high-performance insulation plays in the future of the built environment.

However, it is not individual product performance that most impresses the visitor to these extraordinary homes. Yes, they all make exceptional use of the solar power generated by their installed PV systems (they are limited by the rules to only 5 kWh of electricity production from which they must run refrigerators, air conditioning, washers and dryers) and each home has an array of innovative products. But it is the synergistic result of the products’ application combined with the unbelievable ingenuity of the students and professors that excited me the most.

2014 International Solar Decathlon PHOTO: SDEurope

The “decathletes” at the 2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

Some buildings were representative of new construction. For example, the ASU entrant was a modular townhome with the potential to assemble into a collective urban building.

In addition, recognizing that existing buildings are the greatest energy challenge, the effort to improve our world’s retrofit capabilities truly caught my eye. For example, the Berlin Rooftop Project focuses on abandoned rooftop space in that city to create studios for younger urban dwellers, while the Dutch (Delft University) addressed the poorly insulated townhomes that make up over 60 percent of Dutch homes by applying a “second skin” while including a garden capability within the home.

The several days I spent at the event were educational, but nothing was more inspiring than speaking with the students themselves. Be they from Chile, France, Germany, Japan, the United States or any of the other countries involved, their passion was compelling. The intellect and commitment of these future architects, engineers, designers and urban planners to finding sustainable solutions for the planet gives me a distinct optimism for our future.