Posted in news on November 10, 2016 2:29 pm EST

Powering Houses of Worship by Spirit and Solar

Los Angeles-based startup, Sunflare Inc., announces a thin-film solar product that can wrap around buildings.

Image courtesy of Sunflare Inc.


 

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TAGS: building solutions, materials, solar energy, sustainability,

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By Erica Cottrill

One of the great leaps in renewable technology is solar power, a popular form of reliable renewable energy. Innovations like solar panels have made solar power even more affordable and accessible. Although not “new age” technology, solar takes on a myriad of roles, from being used on a manned spacecraft to decorating the White House roof. Today, relevant to church project renovation and construction, solar options are opening up even more possibilities and uses.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory declared in a recent report that due to tax credit extension, the U.S. is projected to add 53 additional gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2020.

Striving to save costs and the environment at the same time, a growth area for solar applications are churches, which often practice Creation Care beliefs. They are part of a national trend where congregations are investing in green-friendly measures, raising funds and tapping into rebates. Due to credit tax extensions, the U.S. is projected to add 53 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2020, with solar expected to receive the greatest increases, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Enter Sunflare -- the first company to create mass-produced flexible, light, affordable copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar panels. With greater efficiencies and dropping costs, Sunflare has reportedly re-engineered the manufacturing of these panels using an emerging technology called Capture, a type of thin-film solar cell. Instead of retrofitting roofs, ripping out existing shingles and tiles and replacing them with solar-infused versions, Sunflare is developing this technology to elegantly wrap buildings in solar.

Good works

The company has worked for six years to perfect Capture, a cell-by-cell manufacturing process with the highest degree of precision and the cleanest environmental footprint, they say. “The process has enabled us to do what no manufacturer of CIGS has done before -- mass produce efficient, flexible solar panels,” says Philip Gao, Sunflare’s CEO.

This option enables sleek solar panels to replace bulky solar arrays that are commonly installed on rooftops. Sunflare will allow panels to be wrapped around curves, custom to fit nearly any roofline, and installed with little more than a special double-sided tape. Since solar solutions are more modular and streamlined today, installation is reported to be simpler.

The market for Sunflare is growing rapidly, with thousands of commercial buildings -- including churches -- needing electricity for lighting. By installing solar panels, these churches and businesses can reduce their electric bills and even turn a profit. Investment in solar offers financial returns of 10% overall, according to Sunflare representatives.

Sunflare is especially suitable for the rooftops of large commercial buildings, because the product is more than 65% lighter than silicon modules. This allows the entire roof to be covered without load-bearing concerns. In addition, the product is reported to be easier to install because it does not require an aluminum frame. With Sunflare, nearly any surface -- vertical, horizontal and curved -- can be transformed into an energy-gathering and power-generating plant.

Powerful alternative

Building-Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) is increasingly being used for solar in new buildings as an ancillary source of electrical power. The panel is integrated into the building fabric rather than being a “tack on” addition replacing cladding materials, with the added benefit of producing renewable electricity. Traditionally, solar is mounted on a building’s roof. But more architects are learning how to incorporate solar cells and modules into things like “curtain walls” (glass hung on a metal frame), which are a game changer for buildings.

Aesthetics are also important to modern churches. Solar manufacturers are creating design-driven ways to generate solar electricity by grafting solar cells into all types of construction materials. As a result, more and more churches are poised for “green” growth over the next several years as they examine ways to create environmental sustainability ... and improved appearance.

 

 

 

 

Learn more about the companies in this story:

Sunflare Inc.

 

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

 

 

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