Solar awnings reach beyond the rooftop
By Lee van der Voo, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
A new solar awning that generates power and light is among a handful of ideas being tested at a new facility at the University of Oregon.
It's also helping the university envision a future of increasingly close partnerships with business, a vision likely to foster an important role for UO in the research and development of ecologically friendly building products.
eSolar Awning was developed by Ihab Elzeyadi, an associate professor of sustainable architecture and director of the university's High Performance Environments Lab.
The modular system is made up of conventional photovoltaic cells and shading, but its assembly is unique. It attaches to a building's exterior, providing shade to windows while reflecting light back inside. For more than a year, Elzeyadi and his colleagues have been testing the awning’s performance on the side of a university building, measuring its power generation capacity and the panels’ effect on indoor factors like light and temperature.
The awning’s commercial potential now appears obvious. It generates about six or eight times the energy it takes to light the building and lowers temperatures inside, reducing stress on cooling facilities. Details of its performance are all carefully recorded at http://solarawning.uoregon.edu
But bringing the product from the university to a commercial market is a challenge.
The conundrum for scientists and entrepreneurs is familiar, particularly in the sustainable technology and building industry: there is much uncharted territory between the scientific research that provides innovative new materials and the commercialization of those ideas into products. Oregon BEST, a state initiative charged with spurring sustainable technology and building products, recently launched a grant program to help bridge the gap.
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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