FOR MORE THAN A DECADE, Moon Township, Pa.-based CENTRIA Services Group has kept a close watch on solartechnology and the market climate for solar roofing. Thefirm’s extensive research combined with a growing green- building market and rising energy costs have paved the way for the introduction of a standardized solar roofing option.
The company is collaborating with Auburn Hills, Mich.-based United Solar Ovonic LLC to provide this new option, offering a combination of innovative product advancement and standardized integration technology. The combination of CENTRIA Services Group’s engineering and systems-integration technology with UNI-SOLAR, United Solar Ovonic’s thin-film building-integrated photovoltaic product, has resulted in a system called EnergyPeak, a practical solar roofing option for commercial buildings.
“Now there is a standardized system to provide turnkey solutions for standing-seam metal-roofing manufacturers as they look for a building-integrated photovoltaic system to brand, manufacture and sell as their own,” says Mark A. Thimons, CENTRIA senior product research associate. PAVING THE WAY / Any standing-seam manufacturer now has the opportunity to add the latest solar technology to its product line with minimal effort and investment. Instead of each manufacturer researching and developing its own solar product, a manufacturer can jump right into the solar market and offer a product with confidence, knowing it already has been successfully tested. “The wide availability of this new solar- energy system not only standardizes new technology for everyone, it also levels the competitive playing field,” Thimons adds. “The industry will save the time, money and resources potentially spent on research and development of a solar-energy option for metal roofing.”
“The future of solar-panel installations is building-integrated solutions,” says Subhendu Guha, chairman of United Solar Ovonic. “Builders today don’t want complicated systems. They want something easy to install, but they also want powerful technology that performs well under real-world conditions.”
The PV thin-film is applied onto a 5-mil stainless-steel substrate and laminated with a high-tech plastic, unlike conventional solar products that use rigid glass. This difference makes the modules significantly lighter, more flexible and durable than polysilicon. The technology also is easy to integrate directly into building materials. Additionally, laminates produce more total energy per rated watt than crystalline PVs because of the triple-junction technology that captures three different wavelengths of sunlight. This additional energy output helps speed the payback time of the system by generating a higher return on investment. “All the homework [has already been done] for manufacturers and contractors who will be provided with all the information they need to specify, sell, install and even market the BIPV system,” Thimons explains. “Additionally, we will train laminate applicators, ensuring that educated and certified workers are properly and knowledgeably installing the system.”
This partnership means taking the leap into solar energy is no longer a leap at all. It has become a small, easy step toward providing energy savings while reducing environmental strain.
A PERFECT MATCH / With all the different types and styles of roofing available today, why was standing-seam metal roofing chosen as a partner in this PV application? First, standing- seam metal roofing is a proven platform, providing a trusted and widely accepted foundation to build upon using BIPV. Because of this, there are dozens of manufacturers experienced with the product, as well as hundreds of contractors experienced with its installation. Since BIPV is a new technology, it makes sense to partner it with a recognized, reliable material.
In addition to standing seam’s established reputation, the steel pan design offers an obvious platform for the installation of the BIPV systems. The 16- or 18-inch (406- or 457-mm) flat surface between panel seams provides the perfect place for the lightweight, thin-film PV product to be installed. Unlike the bulky solar panels of the past, this form of PV installs quickly and easily on new and existing standing-seam roofs without any drilling or mounting. Instead, the thin-film laminates are rolled and fit into place, then held to the metal surface using a laboratory-tested, high-bonding adhesive.
The solar energy provided by PVs increasingly is becoming one of the cleanest, smartest and most advanced alternatives to other forms of energy. Solar power does not produce pollution or any harmful emissions while in use, and programs are in development to create recycling standards once a solar installation has reached the end of its life cycle. The domestic production of BIPVs also is becoming increasingly important. Unlike traditional forms of energy, BIPVs can be produced entirely within the U.S., avoiding any reliance on foreign resources. Efficiency and price also will continue to improve as BIPV technology advances, making solar energy available to everyone.
Most importantly, it will no longer take 10 or more years to see a worthwhile return on investment. In fact, when taking into consideration the rebates and tax credits available, many applications have a return on investment in half that time. It’s also worth noting that a solar system increases the value of a building, a benefit that will continue to become more significant as the push for sustainability continues.
The ease of installing a solar metal roof will lead to a greener commercial-building future, as metal-roofing manufacturers begin to brand, market and sell this new standardized solar roofing solution as their own.
> > RICK MOWREY is director of marketing and business development for CENTRIA Services Group, Moon Township, Pa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 299-8101.
RESOURCES CENTRIA Services Group, Moon Township, Pa.; for more information about UNI-SOLAR by United Solar Ovonic LLC, Auburn Hills, Mich., www.uni-solar.com
ACCORDING TO AN AUGUST 2007 EPA REPORT, ELECTRICITY CONSUMED BY DATA CENTERS, SERVER COMPUTERS AND THE EQUIPMENT THAT POWERS THEM IS HELPING TO DRIVE THE NATIONAL POWER GRID TOWARD GRIDLOCK. LOS ANGELES; NEW JERSEY; NEW YORK; AND WASHINGTON, D.C., ESPECIALLY ARE AT RISK.