Solar panels have traditionally done one thing, turn sunlight into energy. While this is an incredible feat of human innovation by itself, we have now managed to improve upon this by making solar arrays multi-functional. Creating clean energy from sunlight is awesome, adding in another layer of functionality is just icing on the cake. Same Sun of Vermont has recently completed several projects using solar arrays in innovative ways, as we explore below.
Solar Panel Awnings
Solar awnings can be an attractive way to incorporate solar panels into the architecture of a building. In addition to creating energy, awnings can offer protection from rain and sunlight outdoors and lower indoor cooling costs by shading windows during the summer. When Same Sun of Vermont relocated to new offices, a rooftop array was not an option. Instead, we opted for a solar panel awning over the sidewalk. This solar array adds to the curb appeal of the office while providing power to our offices and electric car charging stations in the parking lot.
Solar Car Canopies are an ingenious way to create a large solar array without sacrificing valuable land space. Parking lots are often great locations for solar panels because they are typically unobstructed by trees and buildings that can shade solar panels. Like solar awnings, solar carports provide protection from the elements. Anyone who has gotten into a car that has been baking in the sun or had to clear a foot of snow off their car, knows the advantages of covered parking. Another benefit of solar car canopies is that they can be easily scaled. These canopies can be built for only one or two parking spots or can be built to fit hundreds of cars, making them an ideal solution for many projects.
We are in the process of installing a solar car canopy at Rutland High School / Stafford Technical Center atop their existing faculty parking lot. This canopy will cover 76 cars, while also providing solar power to the school.
Solar Arrays for Marketing
Solar panels can also help with branding. For many businesses, going solar is a way to save money on their electric bill and to show the community their commitment to sustainable energy. However, many may not realize it can also be a great opportunity for marketing. Using thin screens placed over the solar panels, like the SolarSkins created by Sistine Solar, solar panels can be used to display any design imaginable. While Sistine Solar originally designed the SolarSkins to camouflage solar panels to look like the rest of the roof, these screens have a lot of potential to be utilized in branding. Pictured above, Whistle Pig Whiskey , was interested in going solar but hoped to do so in a way that would also serve their marketing purposes. Same Sun reached out to Sistine Solar to use their SolarSkins product to incorporate the brand’s logo and the results are incredible. Not only is Whistle Pig Whiskey now able to generate their own energy, they have a striking display that can be viewed by visitors from their tasting room.
Using screens, such as these, does come with a price. Aside from the additional cost of the screens, using them might result in having to pay for a larger array to meet energy needs. The screens block a certain amount of sunlight from getting to the solar panels, making them less efficient, which means that you will need more modules to produce the same amount of energy as you would with “naked” panels. To many, however, the additional cost is worth it for the added aesthetic value.
As renewable energy gains popularity, the demand for alternative types of arrays is also rising. New ways to incorporate solar arrays into existing landscapes are constantly being developed. Obstacles which used to prevent the installation of a solar array, can now be viewed as an opportunity for innovation. One of the exciting benefits to these solutions is that they can be implemented for homes and businesses of all sizes.