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February 23, 2017

Meet The Men Who Put Solar Shingles On The Roof

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Solar shingles are now gaining increasing traction in the renewable energy landscape. They are architecturally distinctive, more so than traditional rooftop photovoltaic panels. Solar shingles provide an integrated building product providing both roofing security and solar electricity in one package.

As PV Magazine’s Charles W. Thurston has stated,

“The nascent field of U.S. solar shingle manufacturers is beginning to expand from its small base in building-integrated PV (BIPV), leveraging their systemic reductions in installation costs, their improved roof and solar integration, and their continuing march-out of newer materials.”

Two of this industry’s solar shingle pioneers are Robert and Gary Allen, brothers and partners in Rochester, Michigan-based Luma Resources. The two men answered my questions about their innovative building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) products and provided these helpful photographs.

Solar shingle basicsBack side of Luma solar shingle

SONY DSC

Structurally, a polycrystalline photovoltaic tempered glass module is adhered to a custom formed metal shingle. A premium plastic edge protector surrounds the glass to provide added durability.

The junction box located on the back is positioned in the center of the shingle, allowing equal length wires to run in either direction.

For starters, take a look at this remarkable finished roof, as shown below:

The Bermuda Roof from Luma solar shingles

The Bermuda roof from Luma Resources
Our conversation begins:

Meyers: In short, what factors led to the development of your solar shingles?

Robert Allen: It all started with a phone call. I knew a man who worked for a German company, Rheinzink. He knew that our roofing company (Allen Brothers) excelled in specialty roofing and sheet metal. He’d gotten a call from then solar-leader, United Solar Ovonics (USO). Rheinzink was doing a lot of business with USO in Germany. USO asked him if he had any ideas on how USO might gain entrance into the residential solar market. He told them he didn’t have a clue, but based on their area code — being the same as mine — they should call us. They called just before Christmas in 2006.

Meyers: Where was your first product launched, and can you describe the performance successes and drawbacks?

Robert Allen: We showed our product for the first time at the International Roofing Expo in Las Vegas. We had a 10 x 10 foot booth along with a smaller display in the new products pavilion. Thousands of contractors from all over the world walk the Expo. There they see about 50+ new products being introduced into the roofing and construction market for the coming year. During the Expo, attendees are asked to vote for the best new product of the year. Our Luma Solar Roof took first place. When asked why they voted for Luma: they saw it as something they could add to their product offerings back home and make money with.

Meyers: How about system performance?

Gary Allen: The performance success has been very nearly flawless. Our biggest challenge has been helping educate interested parties about rooftop solar versus traditional rack-and-frame. For example, we actually enhance the roof’s strength as opposed to traditional rack-and-frame solar that weakens it. The general public does not yet fully understand, but that is changing with all the press and growing demand about roof-integrated solar.

Designers of the Luma solar shingle

Robert and Gary Allen
Meyers: Who were the product developers, and did this effort generate interest from other companies?

Robert Allen: Gary was the key developer of the Luma Solar Roofing system. His 30 years of experience in the roofing and sheet metal industry doing some of the most challenging projects in our market area paid off big. When we were asked by USO if we could figure out a way to make their thin-film solar laminate work on a residential roof he saw the solution in his mind right away. Three days later he had the prototype shingle finished.

As to the question of our product generating interest from other companies, the answer is yes. Within a year, Dow came out with the Power House Solar Shingle, and a small company called BIPV Solar came out with its product. Dow has closed down its solar shingle division with its most recent merger with DuPont. BIPV was private labeled by Saint-Gobain (French conglomerate) through its CertainTeed division, they now call it the Apollo Tile. Saint-Gobain approached Luma ahead of BIPV Solar but we weren’t looking for a partner and turned them down.

Meyers: Describe some of your solar shingles demos, locations, and comparative costs.

Robert Allen: Although we have been involved in demos in the past, in a certain way every Luma job is a roofing demo, in a sense. Our product is first a fully weatherproof roofing system complete with its own R listing (R for roofing) at Underwriters Laboratories. When we add the solar component to the top of the metal roofing shingle it also becomes a solar roofing system. Luma Solar Roofs are located throughout the United States, Canada, and the West Indies.

Luma solar shingles

Gary Allen: We currently have two active Luma demos for purposes of R&D. One is located in Detroit on the campus of NextEnergy. They are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 2002 to drive advanced energy and transportation investment and job creation. The second demo is on the campus of Western Michigan University in their “Solar Garden.” They will be using it as part of their clean energy degree program.

Robert Allen: Luma’s “comparative cost” can only be looked as it relates to the cost of the roof and the cost of the solar. Luma is the original, and to date, only complete solar roofing system. We cover the entire structure’s roof with either the Luma Metal Shingle or Solar Metal Shingle. Others use a patchwork method. Roofs are sold on a certain price per square foot. Solar is sold on a certain price per watt. Luma’s “comparative cost” would be equivalent to a high-end custom roof that is fully weatherproof and powers your house, as well as beautifying it.

Meyers: While the roofing system is architecturally attractive, how do longevity and performance fit?

Installing splice plate on solar shingle

Gary Allen: The 24-gauge painted galvanized metal that Luma uses to form its shingle has a 30-year warranty on the paint finish. The metal shingle itself is a lifetime product. The solar laminate has a 25-year power generation warranty. Interestingly, some of our systems still function after surviving multiple hurricanes, hail storms and other acts of nature.

Meyers: Who are some of the champions for your company and your solar shingles product?

Robert Allen: Here are some: PV Technical Services, Ontario, Canada 50 + – Luma Solar Roofs; Yale Acres Subdivision, Meriden, Connecticut; Home Land Builders, Ann Arbor, MI; Teddington Farms Eco Tourism Retreat, Portland Perish, Port Antonio Jamaica. Two off-grid Eco Tourism Lodges completed, five more to go.

Luma solar shingles

Mr. John Sarver, former head of the Michigan Department of Energy and first Luma customer post-UL listing. John is the current head of Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA). He’s a strong solar advocate and sought after public speaker. John loves to tell the story that he wanted to put solar on his roof for decades (before Luma) but his wife wouldn’t let him. She hated the way traditional solar would make her beautiful house look. That is, until he showed her the Luma Solar Roof.

On site training of solar shingle installers

Thanks to Robert and Gary Allen for the time they have provided. I look forward to learning more about solar shingles and projects from Luma Resources.

January 24, 2017

Energy Trends from UtilityDIVE

Filed under: Renewable Energy — Tags: , , — Glenn @ 11:50 am

This is a worthwhile report:

http://www.utilitydive.com/news/10-trends-shaping-the-electric-utility-industry-in-2017/434541/

Image via Depositphotos

March 4, 2016

International Wastewater Systems: SHARC Recovering Heat From Sewage

Originally published on CleanTechnica

We understand what’s involved in recovering renewable heat from the Earth by deployinggeothermal recovery technologies. Now it’s time to become familiar with another untapped renewable energy resource: wastewater thermal energy.

Sewage happens to be an energy source flowing beneath the surface of almost all modern cities. Not only is it plentiful, it’s free and mostly untapped.

That is, unless you’re Lynn Mueller, CEO of Canada-based International Wastewater Systems (IWS). His company has developed an innovative heat exchange system which recycles heated wastewater and returns it as a heat source.

With a payback that happens over a short time, a growing number of building developers are inquiring after the installation of IWS’s SHARC (sewage heat recovery) and Pirahana systems. IWS offers heat recovery solutions for space and domestic water heating in the winter, as well as for air conditioning systems in summer.

The company also provides engineering assistance, project feasibility assessments, cost estimates, and technical support, as well as third-party energy analysis studies to evaluate the capability of incorporating sewage heat recovery into a project.

“When you think of sewage, you think it’s just a cost for everybody involved to deal with it, but about 30% of the energy in the world ends up going down the sewer pipes every day,” he said in a January 6 interview with MidasLetter. “So our system has developed a cost-effective way to recover that energy. I like to refer to it as the world’s most ultimate renewable energy, because you really use the same energy every day: you use it, it goes down the drain, you recapture it and you use it again.”

This is not a new undertaking for IWS. In 2014, the company announced it had been selected to provide its state-of-the-art sewage heat recovery technology as a component of the Sechelt sewage treatment facility.

At the time, the LEED gold standard Wastewater Treatment Plant was slated to be be the first of its kind in North America. This video shows the SHARC unit being installed at the Sechelt Sewage plant.

Case studies show the SHARC system allows for significant energy and water savings over the life of the plant by recapturing energy that would have otherwise have been wasted and would have just gone down the drain.

About that project, Sechelt Mayor John R. Henderson said, “This will be the largest infrastructure project in the District’s history. The facility will ensure wastewater treatment capacity for Sechelt for the next 20 years (with provision to add capacity incrementally for up to 50 years more!). The facility will meet the highest Provincial standards for water quality, energy efficiency and resource recovery. It will be the first of its kind in North America, giving Sechelt opportunities to demonstrate and market to others.”

How SHARC Works

SHARC Wastewater heat recovery CanyonSpringsWP-960x344IWS’ Sewage SHARC  uses raw sewage as a medium to produce hot water, heat, and cooling for large residential and commercial buildings. The sewage is used before it gets to the plant, with all of the solids removed. It is put through a heat exchanger and utilized to produce 140°F water for domestic potable use.

Mueller said this process is 500% efficient; every dollar spent gets $5 worth of efficiency. The SHARC system will last for about 30 to 40 years, thereby becoming extremely valuable over its lifespan. In fact, he said buildings can recover the money spent on the systems in three to 10 years.

PIRANHA Retrofit System

IWS Pirhana As-featured-in-banner16-copy-960x344-copyIn addition to the SHARC, IWS also offers a retrofit version of the technology known as the PIRANHA. While the SHARC is custom-built or constructed with new buildings, Mueller said the PIRANHA is a prepackaged unit that comes in 50-kw-per-hour and 100-kw-per-hour models. This version can easily be put into a building’s mechanical room and have the sewer line looped into it. Mueller said it was originally produced to help the European market improve its energy footprint by 25 percent, something it legally must do with each update of a building.

Mueller’s background in geothermal heat pump technology helped him understand it was possible to use sewage as a source of energy instead of using holes in the ground. IWS has now been at it for five years and marketing its SHARC product for two. In the last two years, IWS has made installations across three continents—Australia, Europe, and North America.

Current Project: Gateway Theater

Richmond, Vancouver, BC: at the Gateway Theater, a 50,000-sq-ft public facility. The city had a carbon-reduction plan in place and needed to reduce the facility’s emissions by 50 tons per year. It chose to use the SHARC, thus becoming the first wastewater recovery system at a public facility in Canada.

“Levi Higgs, the city’s corporate energy manager, told HPAC Engineering that before adopting the SHARC, the city undertook a couple of studies and found there was a large amount of potential for a heat- recovery system at the Gateway. This was attributed to the large pumping system next to the theater. Mueller made a proposal that Higgs called “very cost competitive,” and the city has seen some great savings since the installation in April 2013.

““Right off the bat, we saw about a 30% reduction in our natural gas use with the SHARC system,” Higgs said. “We did some upgrades at the facility … and those coupled with the SHARC, we were able to push savings to about 45%.””

This YouTube video tour shows some of the Gateway Theater installation.

“We can produce all the domestic hot water without using a gas boiler,” Mueller said to HPAC Engineering. “Cost is comparable to a gas boiler, and it’s more efficient than the best gas boiler on the market. To give you an example, we did a roughly 200-unit building here in Vancouver, B.C. The greenhouse-gas savings amount to about 900 tons of carbon a year, just by cycling that heat from 200 units. We use heat-pump tech to move the heat.”

The infrastructure may be pricey, but the ROI is fabulous.

Images and video via IWS

January 28, 2016

NREL: Solar Cell Defects Might Improve Solar Cells

Originally published on CleanTechnica – January 20th, 2016 by Glenn Meyers

The time-honored adage that we sometimes learn best by the mistakes we’ve made is now being applied by scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in their study of defects in solar cell defects, stating the results may lead to improved performance.

The study reports about certain defects in silicon solar cells which may eventually improve their overall performance. The findings run counter to conventional wisdom, according to Pauls Stradins, the principal scientist and a project leader of the silicon photovoltaics group at NREL.

NREL cell defect 20160111-solar-defectNREL cell defect 20160111-solar-defect
Schematic of a ‘good’ defect (red cross), which helps collection of electrons from photo-absorber (n-Si), and blocks the holes, hence suppresses carriers recombination.The findings run counter to conventional wisdom, according to Pauls Stradins, the principal scientist and a project leader of the silicon photovoltaics group at NREL.

Deep-level defects frequently hamper the efficiency of solar cells, but NREL’s theoretical research suggests such defects with properly engineered energy levels can sometime improve carrier collection out of the cell, or “improve surface passivation” of the absorber layer.

NREL researchers conducted simulations to add impurities to layers adjacent to the silicon wafer in a solar cell. Specifically, they introduced defects within a thin tunneling silicon dioxide (SiO2) layer that forms part of “passivated contact” for carrier collection, and within the aluminum oxide (Al2O3) surface passivation layer next to the silicon (Si) cell wafer. In both cases, specific defects were identified to be beneficial.

According to NREL press information, the research by Stradins, Yuanyue Liu, Su-Huai Wei, Hui-Xiong Deng, and Junwei Luo, “Suppress carrier recombination by introducing defects: The case of Si solar cell,” appears in Applied Physics Letters.

Finding the correct defects to examine

The researchers state finding the right defect was key to their research process.

“To promote carrier collection through the tunneling SiO2 layer, the defects need to have energy levels outside the Si bandgap but close to one of the band edges in order to selectively collect one type of photocarrier and block the other. In contrast, for surface passivation of Si by Al2O3, without carrier collection, a beneficial defect is deep below the valence band of silicon and holds a permanent negative charge. The simulations removed certain atoms from the oxide layers adjacent to the Si wafer, and replaced them with an atom from a different element, thereby creating a “defect.” For example, when an oxygen atom was replaced by a fluorine atom it resulted in a defect that could possibly promote electron collection while blocking holes.”

The referenced defects were then sorted according to their energy level and charge state. It is believed more research is needed in order to determine which defects will ultimately produce the best results.

A recent study by the same authors has shown that the addition of oxygen could improve the performance of those semiconductors. For solar cells and photoanodes, engineered defects could possibly allow thicker, more robust carrier-selective tunneling transport layers or corrosion protection layers that might be easier to fabricate.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative as part of a joint project of Georgia Institute of Technology, Fraunhofer ISE, and NREL, with a goal to develop a record efficiency silicon solar cell. The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade.

Graphic via NREL

December 5, 2015

Elon Musk proposes smart carbon tax

Filed under: Climate Change,Renewable Energy — Tags: — Glenn @ 10:28 am

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk addressed an audience at Paris Sorbonne University during the 2015 Council on Climate Change held in Paris.

His subjects: climate change, fossil fuels, the carbon cycle.

The video, including audience questions is here.

 

November 10, 2015

Photons & solar panels

Filed under: Renewable Energy — Tags: — Glenn @ 8:43 pm

Photons & Solar Panels

We talk plenty today about solar panels, but not many really grasp how they work – how they create electricity. In his book, Let It Shine: The 6,000-Year Story of Solar Energy, author John Perlin takes readers back to Albert Einstein in 1905 for perspective on the matter of light: “Einstein showed that light possesses an… (more…)

October 12, 2015

12 solar facts you should know

Filed under: Renewable Energy — Tags: — Glenn @ 9:12 am

12 Solar Facts You Should Know

Lists are always fun, so here are 12 solar facts to put in your notebook so you can share the important stuff with anyone who’s interested. I have divided this list of facts into four categories that might help you to better keep track of things. Understanding Our Sun Solar History Solar Technology Solar Metrics But… (more…)

September 23, 2015

Battery storage milestone in Texas

Filed under: Renewable Energy — Glenn @ 10:06 am

Battery Storage Milestone In Texas

Younicos battery storage system will be state’s first integrated grid-scale solar storage asset. The news ledger about solar electricity storage continues expanding following an announcement from Berlin-based Younicos on its agreement with solar power supplier OCI Solar Power to provide a turnkey battery storage system at one of OCI Solar Power’s projects in Texas. According to… (more…)

July 22, 2015

John Perlin PV Miniseries #14: How Public Policy Matters

April 9th, 2015 by Glenn Meyers

This series was published on CleanTechnica.

Our interview with John Perlin continues for this segment of photovoltaics miniseries. In our 13th post, Mr. Perlin said, “Reagan came into office and declared war on solar technologies, which led the National Science Foundation’s chief scientist Lloyd Herwig to declare, instead of the United States, the Japanese and Germans would take over the market.”Our series on PV provides tremendous background on the technology, and highlights the UN’s 2015 Year of Light.

 

perlinIf you haven’t read it, Perlin’s book, “Let It Shine: The 6000-Year Story of Solar Energy,” provides an excellent backgrounder on the history of solar energy. This series details much about how the industry evolved to its present-day status.

 

 

 

For those missing info on this miniseries, here are previously published episodes:

Author John Perlin Celebrates the Coming Year of Light
Author John Perlin & the Solar Cell
The Pathway to Today’s Solar Revolution: Discovering the Photosensitivity of Selenium
Photovoltaics Discovered in 1875: Interview with Author John Perlin
Photovoltaic Dreaming: First Attempts at Commercializing PV
Einstein: The Father of Photovoltaics Part 1
Einstein: The Father of Photovoltaics – Part 2
John Perlin Miniseries #8: Photovoltaics: Saved by Silicon – Part 1
Photovoltaics Miniseries #9: Saved by Silicon – Part 2
Photovoltaics Miniseries #10: World’s First Practical Solar Cell Victim to Exigencies of Cold War
Photovoltaics Miniseries #11: Nixon’s Solargate
Photovoltaics Miniseries #12: Jimmy Carter’s War Against PV
John Perlin’s Photovoltaics Miniseries #13: Reagan Nukes Solar

John Perlin’s PV Miniseries #14: How Public Policy Matters

A physicist and teacher, Perlin has long been a proponent or solar energy. He reports not all has gone seamlessly for many solar innovators and their enthusiasts. Our interview continues with this in mind.

CleanTechnica: The solar cell was a remarkable technology that must have excited many, even if it failed to gain traction with our presidents. As you have said before, Daryl Chapin, one of the inventors of the silicon solar cell, published the first text on PV. Correct?

Perlin: Yes. He provided a kit for constructing a silicon solar cell, and advised his readers, mainly high school students, that though the solar cell they would make “delivers only 10 milliwatts , don’t be discouraged. We are standing near the beginning of a new era of solar uses.”

CleanTechnica: But it marked a beginning, correct?

Perlin: Absolutely. The first silicon solar cells were feeble. At the time of the public announcement in 1954 [of their availability] they consisted of a number of cells that delivered less than 1 watt. This increased to a megawatt by 1980.

CleanTechnica: But by then President Reagan declared war against solar, as you stated in your previous article, leading to the National Science Foundation’s lead solar advisor Lloyd Herwig’s dire prediction that Japan and Germany would take over the market solar.

Perlin: Sadly, his prediction came to pass. Starting in 1994, the Japanese government offered a generous subsidy to encourage the adoption of PV on the nation’s rooftops. By the time the program had ended in 2004 almost 400,000 Japanese households had installed PV, totaling a little over a gigawatt.

Perlin: Following the Social Democratic/Green victory in 1999, a new chapter in the story of photovoltaics began. The coalition cobbled together the Renewable Energy Sources Act of 2000, which committed the German nation “to facilitate a sustainable development of energy supply in the interest of managing global warming.” This was specifically, in support of photovoltaic’s. Its authors believed, “the long-term the use of solar radiation energy holds the greatest potential for providing an energy supply which does not have adverse impact on climate.”

Soon Germany eclipsed Japan’s top position in the international photovoltaic market. Once again, governmental policy led the charge.

CleanTechnica: You contend the growth of the solar PV market in both Japan and Germany was fueled via government programs?

Perlin: Yes. The key to the success of the Renewable Energy Sources Act was the premium offered that those using photovoltaics when selling their electricity to the grid. This new interaction is now known as the “Feed-in Tariff.”

CleanTechnica: Please elaborate on the net effect of the Feed-in Tariff.

Perlin: This generous offering opened the flood gates to using photovoltaics. PV use grew 40% in the first four years of the act, and by 2004 the production of solar cells broke the one gigawatt barrier.

The authoritative PV Status Report of 2005 attributed the act “as the driver of this growth. International markets associated with PV responded positively. Production of the essential feedstock for solar cells exploded. The Chinese government, eyeing great potential for selling to the German solar market, offered tens of billions of dollars in soft loans to entrepreneurs willing to expand module production. Innovations flourished. The result – better cells, cheaper cells.

Summing up the impact of the German program, the investment group the Motley Fool stated, “Germany decided it was time to make a big bet on solar. The country heavily subsidized the industry to make it economically viable long-term. The bet paid off.”

December 12, 2014

Looking at the Beauty of the Solar Cell: John Perlin Interview

In a discussion today about solar energy and the coming Year of Light, author John Perlin helped enlighten me about the importance of the solar cell (photovoltaic systems) as a source for renewable electrical energy. What is the single most significant consideration in designing a PV system, as opposed to a solar thermal system that is founded using multiple heliostats? The answer: PV functions without requiring moving parts.

Perlin, author of Let It Shine: The 6,000-Year History of Solar Energy, elaborates here on the solar cell:

Year of Light and the Solar Cell

Most consider the solar cell as just another device for producing energy. But this is just not the case. Solar cells are something special, nothing less than a revolution in power generation.

As Science magazine observed almost forty years ago, “If there is a dream solar technology, it is photovoltaics – solar cells – at once the most sophisticated solar technology and simplest, most benign source of electricity yet conceived.”

Solar History

86-301773sol

Daryl Chapin

Daryl Chapin, one of the inventors of the silicon solar cell – the first solar cell capable of directly converting enough sunlight for practical purposes – realized from the beginning the significance, writing: “It is clearly wasteful to convert solar radiation into heat and reconvert it into electricity or mechanical motion. This is one reason why scientists eagerly welcome any information about a direct conversion of solar energy to electricity even though early results are competitive economically in special cases. Cost reduction and other improvements can come later. The important fact is that more than 10% of the sun’s total radiant energy can be delivered as electrical energy into a load without moving parts and without wasteful prior conversion to heat energy.”

The New York Times, like Chapin, celebrated the birth of the silicon solar cell in 1954, as “the beginning of a new era, leading to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams – the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”

Bell Laboratories, where the semiconductor era began, predicted that its two semiconductor inventions – the transistor and the silicon solar cell – would be “closely linked in many important future developments that will profoundly influence the art of living.”

(more…)

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