Open Energy's Solar Building Materials Draw Crowds at Greenbuild
GREENBUILD -- Building-integrated solar, or BIPV, has caught attendees' attention at the Greenbuild 2006 Conference and Expo. Open Energy, a relatively new company in the space, is exhibiting three types of BIPV for roofs and windows. Their solar building materials are of particular interest to the large audience of LEED-accredited architects here. Open Energy's Howard Gomes talks with us about their products and the return on investment in various parts of the U.S. and the world. (podcast) (photos)
November 17, 2006
Howard Gomes explains Open Energy's solar building materials to architects at Greenbuild 2006.
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Building-integrated solarThe LEED green building standards include points for renewable energy. While not a strong incentive, it encourages commercial building designers to at least consider adding solar modules to the roof. This is not lost on several solar power companies who are exhibiting this week at Greenbuild 2006.
One of them is a relatively new company called Open Energy. Their products are building materials in three categories: commercial flat-roof PV in a single-ply membrane; a residential solar roofing tile; and photovoltaic architectural glass with solar cells laminated inside.
Open Energy's architectural solar glass has modules laminated inside the glass. Architects can specify the details of their windows, which are made to order.
This podcast is an interview with Howard Gomes of Open Energy, recorded on the show floor during Greenbuild 2006. Here's a brief summary of our conversation.
What's different about these solar modules?Conventional solar modules require something to keep them on the roof -- either fastening to the roof, or ballast to weight them down. When the solar modules are integrated into the building material, concerns about roof penetrations and roof loads are alleviated. And with the strong movement toward green building and LEED certification, solar glass makes a statement about a building.
What's the ROI?Even though solar is a building material, it's also an energy source and needs to make financial sense to an owner. The return on investment depends largely on location. The considerations are the cost of energy and the available incentives.
If the local cost of energy is high -- 28 to 30 cents per kWh -- no incentives are needed to justify a solar investment, according to Gomes. For supportive states with typical energy costs, the payback is about seven years; it's 10 or 12 years in moderately supportive states; and where there's no program, the payback is 20 years or more, Gomes says.