What is the Future of Solar Roof Technology – Part 1

(Left to right) Rob Fleming; Dennis Wilde; Alain Garnier; Mark Stancroff; Jeff Wolfe

At Greenbuild, CertainTeed sponsored a luncheon and panel discussion on The Future of Solar Roof Technology.  The panel was very diverse, representing manufacturers of solar materials and end users. The panel included Dennis Wilde, Principal and Development Advisor, Gerding Edlen Development;  Alain Garnier, General Manager, Saint-Gobain Solar U.S.;  Jeff Wolfe, Co-founder and CEO of groSolar; and Mark Stancroff, Business Manager, CertainTeed Solar.  Because of the amount of good information discussed at the event, I am breaking it down into more than one Blog.

The event was moderated by Rob Fleming and Chris Pastore from Philadelphia University who are also known as Ecoman and the Skeptic on their Philadelphia radio show. Rob is an architect by trade and Chris is an engineer.  Both are professors and on the faculty at Philadelphia University. They represented the real world, both the advocates and the skeptics, and created a perfect atmosphere for the audience by challenging the panel and encouraging the audience to do the same, which they did.

The audience was a mix of users and makers as well so the discussion was very robust.  I find when I travel to talk to groups about sustainability this is exactly what you find – skeptics and believers.

According to the end users on the panel, Jeff Wolfe and Dennis Wilde, the adoption of solar and photovoltaics in the U.S. continues to be slow.  Consumers are skeptical and are concerned about the return on investment.  They are waiting for their neighbors to invest.  Homeowner associations are also challenging this initiative based on aesthetics.

Dennis Wilde has been involved in building with photovoltaics and his firm supports initiatives like the Living Building Initiative. He had some interesting insights into the benefits of photovoltaics compared to integrated wind technology.  Referring to a specific project, Dennis stated that the return for solar will be three to five years on that project and the return on the integrated wind technology will be about 104 years.  It is clear that integrated wind technology will not give the return as quickly on that project but it still has merit as a renewable energy source. The issue may be one of a matter of scale. Dennis also discussed the success they are having using photovoltaics on the façade of the building as opposed to the roof.  With Living Building, you have to maximize the power generation to meet the benchmarks and they have seen success with this technique.

Stay tuned for more on The Future of Solar Roof Technology.

I would love to hear your thoughts if you are using photovoltaics in the field. 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Living and Breathing Sustainability at the Enviro Center

Enviro Center, Jessup, MD

I was down in Jessup, Maryland recently to conduct some presentations in a facility known as the Enviro Center. Previously I had talked about the regional clearinghouses for sustainability that are popping up around the country like Earth Advantage in Oregon, that bring together sustainability professionals and consumers interested in learning about sustainable practices. But the Enviro Center is a living experiment of a sustainable environment. 

The founder and CEO, Stanley J. Sersen along with his partners renovated an existing, old farmhouse on a busy road in Jessup to be a multi-office complex for new businesses. The building encompasses sustainable principals and practices and is a showcase of solutions.  Some of the principles employed are natural daylight, rainwater harvesting, use of renewable materials, and extremely efficient mechanical controls, including active and passive technologies to be more energy efficient.  The solar roof panels provide 65% of the power for the building.  You can walk through the building and see, in practice, all these technologies.

This is especially neat because you are in the space talking to someone who has experience in executing all these technologies while seeing these practices in action. You can walk around and discuss how these concepts work, what the logistics were to accomplish the work, what the learning curve was, what permits were needed.  You can actually feel the indoor environmental quality of the space.

The other unique aspect of this facility is that it is not textbook learning it is working learning.  It’s the type of learning that sticks with you so deeply because you are experiencing it first hand. The impact is long-lasting.

The Enviro Center is planning to bring more technologies and cutting-edge practices into the facility in Phase II of their development.  Very exciting stuff!  Watch a video on the Enviro Center.

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation