Clean Energy Authority | Chris Meehan | April 2012
There are numerous versions of PV-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging stations out there, but Pvilion’s new Solar Sail, introduced April 5 at Pflugerville’s Renewable Energy Park near Austin, Texas, is a bit different.
The array takes advantage of flexible solar PV by introducing a dynamic twist to the modules, which allows the PV canopy to take on a more fluid look than most PV canopies.
The solar sail is a 1.6-kilowatt PV array using Uni-Solar amorphous
silicon modules. It has level 1 (slow) and level 2 (faster) EV-charging capabilities, said Pvilion Co-Founder and President Todd Dalland. It’s able to charge up to two EVs a day.
When the system isn’t charging a car during the day, it’s feeding electricity to the grid. When charging a car at night, it draws electricity from the grid.
While the system is designed to be technology neutral, flexible PV modules are essential to its design, Dalland said.
“The main advantage is it enables us to deploy flexible modules on flexible structural material,” he said. “When they have a slight warp to them it adds to their stability—that and the visual appeal.”
The Pflugerville installation is the company’s first Solar Sail installation, according to Dalland. It has been operational since December and has been producing to expectations. And so far the response has been warm. Pvilion is already working on more orders although it was too early for Dalland to discuss where other projects would be located.
At this point the company is focused on building and selling more of the Solar Sails, although it could use the approach to design flexible PV arrays for other types of structures, according Dalland.
“It’s early days. A lot of the design alternatives haven’t been discovered yet,” he said. “We’re interested in deploying flexible modules on a variety of structural materials. Structural fabric is one we’ll look into in the future.”
The company could also look into making a solar tracker with flexible PV. But again, such a product would be in the future.