PSDcast – The Basics of Solar Clothing

April 19, 2022

About This Episode

One area of renewable energy we haven’t really covered, at least as of yet, is the wearable sort – including and especially solar clothing that generates power while you go about your daily routine. But it’s still a technology with a ton of potential, and here to discuss that is Pvilion CEO Colin Touhey.

To view this podcast on the Power Systems Design website, click here.


Talking Textiles Podcast: The Magic of Fabric Solar Cells

April 15, 2022

About This Episode

What do a Smithsonian exhibit tent, a synthetic leather clutch and renewable energy all have in common? On today’s Talking Textiles, learn this and more from Colin Touhey, founder and CEO of Pvilion, a company whose mission is to integrate solar cells with fabrics and build fabric products that generate electricity. Interviewed by Haskell Beckham of the Colombia Sportswear Company, Colin gives advice for students and how they should push their way into a company they love.

To view this podcast on the IFAI website, click here.


Anchor & Pvilion partner to provide solar power to tent rental industry

InTents Magazine |  February 2, 2022  |  By: IFAI

Anchor Industries has partnered with Pvilion to introduce solar power to the tent world utilizing a heavy duty portable solar canopy and battery. The product was showcased at the IFAI Tent Expo in Daytona, Fla. in January 2022.

Adding solar panels to event tents removes the need for diesel generators.

Founded in 1892, Anchor Industries is a manufacturer of event tents, awnings, canopies, shade and clear span structures.

“Our two teams have done an outstanding job in the last few months collaborating and partnering together to make the tent rental industry green. We think there are tent customers who want to lower their carbon footprint. It’s our job as leaders in the industry to give them the tools to help them do just that.” said Anchor President, Pete Mogavero. “As the price of electricity steadily increases year after year, we are making it our job to provide solar canopy structures that our customers will enjoy. They are lightweight, flexible, easy to install, durable, and energy efficient.” he added.

Pvilion is a Brooklyn-based solar fabric manufacturing company. Their products range from stand-alone solar canopies, solar military tents, grid-tied long span structures, solar-powered charging stations to solar-powered curtains, building facades, backpacks, clothing, and clip-on tent attachments.

“As the world makes the shift away from fossil fuels to more sustainable options and clean energy, the event industry is doing the same,” said Pvilion CEO Colin Touhey. “Adding Pvilion’s solar capabilities to event tents, thereby removing the need for diesel generators, will change the industry forever. We’re pleased to partner with Anchor to help make this monumental transition.”

Anchor and Pvilion will be featuring the product in April at Anchor University.

More information on Anchor Industries and Pvilion can be found at and

To read the full original article, click here.



Access All Areas  |  April 11, 2022 | Christopher Barrett

Live from Mexico in the people-powered Energy Zone of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres World Tour, Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking and Energy Consultant on Coldplay’s current tour, updates us on the tech and innovation which allows energy from fans to be converted, via kinetic dance floors and pedal bikes, into power for the show. As well as spotlighting the remarkable clean tech solutions, and the expertise required to maximize system outputs for this stadium-ready portable mini-micro-grid, Tim also celebrates the innovation of the band themselves, who have pushed the boundaries to engage fans in a hitherto untried way.

It’s 16.30 hours at the Foro Sol stadium, Mexico City, as the blistering sun mercifully begins to descend. Suddenly, some 26,000 fans, old and young, sprint into view, vying for the best vantage points to take in the sensory delights of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres World Tour (MOTS) spectacular. Strangely, though, there’s also a hive of activity downstage midway between the final delay towers, where fans are furiously pedalling on bikes and leaping around on raised platforms.

‘Is he mad?’ I hear you ask. Definitely not, in fact I’m privileged to say that I’m part of creating this unlikely melee of activities.

This is MOTS Energy Zone, an area dedicated to people-power, where the electrical team, under the guidance of Head Electrician Paul Traynor, cunningly harvest energy from the movement of Coldplay fans. The two raised platforms are, in fact, kinetic dancefloors courtesy of Dutch firm Energy Floors. As fans bounce around to the bass lines of House of Pain’s Jump Around, their movement produces energy, which then charges a series of Wattsun battery packs. Similarly, the 12 bikes are fitted to Kinetic Effects’ PedGen bike stands, incorporating DC motors, which can produce hundreds of watts each. The energy generated by the bikes is stored in a SMART Power 50kWh battery system, which in turn inverts and distributes AC power to the ‘C-Stage’, a circular structure where the band play an intimate set surrounded by adoring fans.

If you look closely at the risers surrounding the delay towers and behind the stage, you’ll also see solar canvasses provided by US company Pvilion. These rapid-deploy PV panels charge batteries that feed an inverter providing energy to the LX in the stage underworld. Back of house, you will also find a mini-solar farm that provides a 100% renewable charge station for the Wattsun battery packs & docks. These portable battery solutions are being used for a range of applications, including stage backline, LED lights, video control racks & DMX buffers.

However, the most remarkable thing about the Energy Zone is how it all dovetails: These aren’t plug and play solutions that naturally knit together, they have to be constantly optimised and tweaked to maximise system outputs. Energy and power data has to be captured, relayed to the venue screens and reported back to the band’s sustainability director and team. In many ways, it’s the ultimate renewable energy mix, a portable mini-micro-grid incorporated into a stadium touring set up – no mean feat I would say.

The innovation of Coldplay themselves, and the willingness of their production and touring crews to push the boundaries like they have never been pushed before, is clearly paying off. Not only are they championing remarkable clean tech solutions, but they are also engaging fans in a hitherto untried way – more of this please touring industry!

To read the original article, click here.


US Air Force Deploys Solar Power For New Self-Assembling Tent

CleanTechnica |  April 11, 2022 | By Tina Casey

The Brooklyn Navy Yard was the legendary birthplace of America’s mightiest warships from 1801 to 1966, when it stopped producing warships. Fortunately, the sprawling facility has come roaring back to life as a leading hub of clean tech innovation. That includes solar power, and the Air Force is banking on the Brooklyn-based company Pvilion Solar to help sustain the green fighting force of the future under the new Agile Combat Employment directive.

Solar Power & Tents

For all the technology advances in military systems over the past 1,000 years or so, on-the-go shelter has seen little in the way of foundational change. Expeditionary forces still rely on tents and canopies to keep the elements at bay.

Forces on the move also rely on fuel and water that moves with them, a topic that came to light with all its lethal consequences in the form of bomb-vulnerable supply convoys during the Iraq war, and most recently during Russia’s murderous rampage through Ukraine

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Marine Corps and the US Army began turning to renewable energy as a solution to the expeditionary energy-water nexus problem, with a focus on solar power.

Aside from avoiding fuel transportation costs, solar power reduces the need for noisy, polluting gas or diesel generators. With solar power in play, warfighters in camp have less exposure to health and safety risks. Reducing the level of noise-induced stress is another plus for combat-readiness.

Solar Power Plus Flexibility

The US Army appears to be the first to express interest in the idea of outfitting its tents and canopies with solar power. By 2010, members of the Kansas Army National Guard were already deploying a PV-enabled tent in Djibuti, in the form of a solar-plus-storage mashup with batteries from a Hawker High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (aka, generically, the humvee).

The US Marine Corps began introducing portable PV panels to the field by 2009, and it was also experimenting with PV-enabled tents by 2011. Not to be one-upped, in 2013 the Army introduced the idea of replacing a flexible, fabric tent with a new system that combines a solar canopy with a structure made with lightweight, energy-efficient walls. The idea is to maximize the overall efficiency of the system by conserving the output from solar canopies.

The Pvilion Solar Tent Solution

Pvilion Solar has been making PV-enabled solar tents, canopies, and sails for more than 20 years. It first flapped across the CleanTechnica radar just a few years ago, in 2017, so we have some catching up to do.

Back in 2020 the US Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office tasked Pvilion to develop and deliver a self-deploying tent with solar power, called HEXT for Hands-Off Expeditionary Tent.

Personnel at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska deployed the HEXT system at its flight line during the “Polar Force 22-4” exercise on March 31which focused on the new Agile Combat Employment directive. They gave the technology a big thumbs-up.

The HEXT system appears to build on the structure-plus-canopy idea, to achieve maximum energy efficiency.

“The tents…have a 42-inch by-42 inch footprint when they’re packed up and on a pallet. Airmen can offload them, plug them into a battery bank, press a button, and almost walk away; in three minutes, the tent has put itself up into a 20 foot by 20 foot shelter with windows and doors, 11 feet tall,” enthused JBER public affairs officer Chris McCann in an article posted by the base last week.

The solar angle comes in the form of Pvilion’s Solar Powered Integrated Structure, which is a solar canopy that can be mounted on the same frame as the tent. Alternatively, the SPIS canopy can be spread over any available surface, including other structures, vehicles, and the bare ground.

“The panels power rugged battery packs that almost snap together — a modular system. The first Airmen arriving at the location can bring one or two batteries, with follow-on troops bringing more as needed. When the mission’s over, the majority can be taken out, leaving only one or two for the last bits of power needed,” McCann added.

Reliable Solar Power For The US Air Force

Reliability being the key driver for military-purposed energy-on-the-go, the SPIS kit sports a conventional generator to back up its batteries when needed. The generator and the batteries carry on a running conversation and can switch seamlessly from one to the other.

As for the output, McCann noted that the SIPS kit can deliver up to 12,000 watts, which is the same wattage need to run an entire home including extras such as tools and computers, as well as an HVAC system and other large appliances.

JBER provides the Air Force with an opportunity to test the efficiency of the solar canopy in cold weather. We’re assuming it did okay, based on McCann’s commentary and the performance of other cold-weather PV systems. The system is also being tested elsewhere around the US for a range of temperatures and weather conditions.

Solar Power & The Energy-Water Nexus

Another site testing the system is Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, which also hosting another Air Force project that features Pvilion’s solar technology, under the name Project Arcwater.

Project Arcwater was birthed through the Air Force’s 2022 “Spark Tank” innovation competition. Created by Senior Master Sgt. Brent Kenney and Tech Sgt. Matthew Connelly of the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem AB, it combines moisture-capturing technology with solar power.

“Water and power are nonnegotiable when standing up a forward operating location. But it’s not to get fuel and water on location. What if we could generate from thin air? Project Arcwater is an agile combat employment system that aims to significantly decrease the logistics of transporting water and energy needs at off-the-grid locations through solar panels, a water harvester, and AC/heating tool, creating 26 gallons of potable water out of thin air,” the Air Force explains.

“Project Arcwater is an Agile Combat Employment initiative that addresses the logistics challenges associated with moving large quantities of water and fuel to forward operating locations. The project aims to provide an off-the-grid power using solar energy and atmospheric water harvesting. The solution is designed to be independent of local infrastructure, easy to move, easy to set-up, and easy to operate,” its creators add.

Check out the Project Arcwater video for more details, and if you’re wondering what Agile Combat Employment is, that’s a good question. The ACE doctrine is a recent development that grew out of Air Force challenges in the Pacific. It was adopted throughout the Air Force last December.

The ACE doctrine includes a logistics element that emphasizes local sourcing, transportable systems and quick set-up. Considering that the Air Force also came up with the vision of a carbon-negative future for the whole Department of Defense, it’s a safe bet that solar power and other renewables will feature front and center as the ACE doctrine unspools.

Click here to view the original article.


Solar-hybrid systems make logistical impact on JBER

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson |  April 8, 2022 | By Chris McCann

photo courtesy of US Air Force

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  –  Logistics can be an extreme challenge for a military. On the top of the list of critical items is fuel, whether it’s for heating, mobility, or powering a pilot’s tablet.

Trucking fuel in a contested area can be difficult and dangerous or flatly impossible, but the sun shines everywhere. Solar power can massively reduce the need for fuel and generators, but can be logistically difficult to deploy in austere environments.

Recently, Air Force Spark Tank and AFWERX awarded contracts for modular pop-up tents and fabric solar panels, which can harvest a serious amount of power – not only enough to heat and light themselves, but to provide power for troops, communications and electronics plus much more.

Pvilion, a company based in Brooklyn, New York, fielded the systems on the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson flight line during exercise Polar Force 22-4 on March 31.

Anyone who served in Iraq or Afghanistan remembers the constant roar of generators around the bases there. Pvilion hopes to help make that a thing of the past.

“It’s changing the paradigm of power generation, this hybrid solution,” said Pvilion CEO Colin Touhey. “A generator is like a firehose – whether you need a whole firehose worth or just a glass of water, you get the whole firehose. This system is like a water tank – you fill the tank and it can be more or less continuously refilled, but if you only need a glass of water, that’s all you take. You’re not running the whole firehose all the time.”

The tents, for example, have a 42-inch by-42 inch footprint when they’re packed up and on a pallet.
Airmen can offload them, plug them into a battery bank, press a button, and almost walk away; in three minutes, the tent has put itself up into a 20 foot by 20 foot shelter with windows and doors, 11 feet tall.

The tent will also take itself down at the push of a button, ready to be re-palletized.

The Hands-off Expeditionary Tent System, or HEXT, answers the needs of Agile Combat Employment – being able to drop Airmen wherever they need to go, with modular support.

To go with the tents, Pvilion also developed the fabric-based solar panels, the SPIS or Solar Powered Integrated Structure, which can be on or secondary to a tent. They can be mounted on the same modular frames as the tents, or simply draped over a vehicle or spread on the ground. The panels power rugged battery packs that almost snap together – a modular system. The first Airmen arriving at the location can bring one or two batteries, with follow-on troops bringing more as needed. When the mission’s over, the majority can be taken out, leaving only one or two for the last bits of power needed.

The SPIS kit delivers up to 12,000 watts of continuous power, 9,000 watts of continuous AC or DC power, and a 16,000-watt surge rating. (For perspective, 12,000 watts will run a whole home – fridge, HVAC, appliances, computers, tools, and all.)

Additionally, the systems are scalable and parts are interchangeable, Touhey said.

“The tents get longer legs; the solar racks get shorter ones, but it’s all the same stuff,” he explained. Adaptability makes the systems ideal for ACE, contingency response, combat control, and recovery operations, where personnel numbers may vary considerably.

The hybrid batteries can also be powered by a generator if there’s not enough sun, but even on a cloudy day at JBER, they were harvesting thousands of watts. The 5-kilowatt integrated generator and batteries also “talk” to each other – the command center, also in a ruggedized brick, constantly communicates to the power situation, and will turn on a generator if necessary. When the sun comes back, it will shut down the generator and return to solar power.

Pvilion is testing and evaluating the performance of the systems at JBER, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; Robins Air Force Base, Georgia; Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; and at Space Force bases in Colorado.

The systems were originally designed for civilian use, and are being fielded after two years of ruggedizing – meeting the Air Force’s requirements for snow loads and wind. They can withstand 65 mph wind and up to a few feet of snow. Since the panels are fabric-based, snow can easily be shaken off them.

“It shows the innovation capabilities between small businesses and Airmen users,” Touhey said. “We are getting real-life feedback by deploying seven kits to different climates, different uses, [and] different requirements. But it’s all using the same blocks.”

The systems are so far getting kudos from Airmen used to spending time on the chilly flight line.

“This time, the Airmen had two tents out there,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rich Pantoja, the 3rd Maintenance Squadron Accessories and Propulsion flight chief. “There typically is just one, but now the pilots can do their debriefings and get dressed without all the other personnel needing to leave.”

The Pvilion project started as a contract with the Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office in late 2019. They went from ideas on paper to fielding prototypes in nine months, Touhey said.
“It’s a testament to RSO and their contracts,” he added. “Contracting is rolling with us having a 90% solution, then a 95% solution, then a 98% solution, and so on.”

The systems were taken down at the end of Polar Force, but are now the property of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, Touhey said, and are available to any unit needing them.

“If anyone wants to kick the tires, they can,” he said.

Click here to view the original article.


This year’s Air Force innovation prize winner makes it easier to plug in, drink up on deployment

AirForce Times |  March 25, 2022 | By Rachel S. Cohen

Troops set up Project Arcwater’s photovoltaic fabric system, which can produce as much power as it takes to run the average American home. Screenshot from Project Arcwater’s Spark Tank video.

For troops deployed in the desert who wish they could conjure a cool glass of water, help is on the way.

Senior Master Sgt. Brent Kenney, a civil engineering superintendent with the 52nd Fighter Wing at Germany’s Spangdahlem Air Base, won the Air Force’s annual Spark Tank competition earlier this month by proposing a cheaper, lighter way to carry critical resources such as fuel and water to remote areas.

His offering, Project Arcwater, aims to make it easier and more environmentally friendly for the Air Force to conduct agile combat operations — the practice of dispatching small teams on flexible, unpredictable missions away from the comforts of a brick-and-mortar base.

“We can use these green technologies to really reduce that footprint that relies on fuel and water,” Kenney recently told Air Force Times, noting that he saw a single power plant burn 30,000 gallons of diesel a day while deployed to Iraq. “We can shrink that down, and make the power that we can harvest from the environment 10 times more effective.”

Project Arcwater beat five other concepts in the finals of Spark Tank, a play on the popular angel-investing television show “Shark Tank.” That nabbed Kenney’s team $400,000 to build one system in a year, as well as a promise that the Air Force will assign Arcwater a program office that gives it structure and staying power.

The concept could shrink the price of a three-day, 30-person deployment from $40,000 to $600 by using up to 83% less fuel and eliminating the cost of water altogether, Kenney said in his Spark Tank pitch video. It’s also faster to set up than current systems, and helps free up about half of the pallet space on a C-130 Hercules transport plane.

“There are some up-front costs, but in just 20 missions, we can make that money back,” Kenney said in the video.

His idea arose out of disaster. In 2018, when Hurricane Michael destroyed Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, Kenney’s unit in Georgia was among the first to respond.

An airman pours a cup of water from Project Arcwater’s water harvesting system, which makes drinkable water out of any freshwater, saltwater or moisture in the air. Screenshot of Project Arcwater’s Spark Tank pitch video.

The 53rd Air Traffic Control Squadron from Robins Air Force Base, a mobile airport of sorts, headed south to reopen Tyndall’s airfield and evacuate the F-22 Raptor fighter jets that hadn’t left before the Category 5 storm hit.

Kenney’s squadron brought their standard load of a couple barrels of diesel fuel, but it wasn’t enough.

“Everything was contaminated with saltwater, so our barrels didn’t last very long,” he said of Tyndall’s inability to power its own systems. “We ended up having to use a tractor-trailer and load it completely full of nothing but fuel, and drive it from middle Georgia all the way down there.”

Planning a humanitarian aid mission in the Bahamas raised a similar concern. Kenney said his unit anticipated needing to bring 30 days’ worth of water and fuel because they wouldn’t receive fresh supplies.

Those events sparked a question: How can the Air Force shrink what it needs to carry on the go?

Kenney discovered Pvilion, a New York-based company that sells solar power-generating fabric, through the Air Force technology innovation group AFWERX. They got to work creating the electrical piece of Project Arcwater under a Small Business Innovation Research grant.

At its best, the solar power component can provide slightly more energy than it takes to run an average American home, and about double what Spangdahlem believes agile combat operations requires, Kenney said.

The system comes with batteries in case bad weather prevents the photovoltaic fabric from collecting enough energy to power the site, and a small generator that automatically turns on in emergencies and can recharge the system within a few hours.

That first product went to Robins, but Kenney moved to Spangdahlem before he could see it come to fruition. In Germany, he again sought military research grant funding to build another system for use at Spangdahlem.

AFWERX connected Kenney with Gyrene, a California-based company that harvests water out of thin air,but his request for a grant to get the project off the ground was never approved. After about a year in limbo (where the application remained as of March 11), Kenney turned to his local leaders instead.

The water harvester box can pump out dihydrogen monoxide using two methods: it can suck up and purify moisture in the air to produce as much as 30 gallons of water per day; or it can filter freshwater and saltwater that airmen find while deployed, filling its 20-gallon tank in 10 minutes.

This technology replaces a pallet of water bottles every six days, Kenney said.

Even in arid climates like in North Africa and the Middle East, the system can generate around 10 gallons of water, Kenney said, adding that it’s easiest to pull moisture from the atmosphere overnight there.

The contraption runs on internal power that lasts five days without charging while processing humidity into potable water, to as long as 14 days when purifying natural water from a pond or ocean.

“In the event that you are in a pinch and you really need to keep power on, you can plug the water harvester [into the generator] and it will actually use the onboard power from the water harvester to recharge the system,” Kenney added.

Older heating and cooling systems can weigh as much as 600 pounds and need a forklift to move around. The HVAC system on Arcwater’s solar component weighs in at 175 pounds and can be carried by two people, Kenney said.

Officials in the 52nd Fighter Wing approved of the idea and offered their discretionary funds to move it forward. The water system costs $87,000 per unit, while the solar setup runs about $232,000.

In contrast, the Air Force said in 2019 it spends about $1.1 billion annually to power facilities and vehicles (plus about $7 billion a year in aviation fuel). And though it’s unclear what the military currently spends on sending water to the field, the Pentagon said in 2003 it cost $4.69 per gallon to deliver bottled water to troops in Afghanistan — or about $750,000 to hydrate 1,000 people for a month.

Kenney said he expected to have a prototype by mid-May that pairs together the photovoltaic fabric and the water harvester. The finished product with any needed changes should be available in the fall.

He plans to take Arcwater to three field exercises in the next few months to see how it performs in the real world.

“We can put wear and tear on it, and then we have the opportunity to go back to the company and say, ‘Hey, I don’t like this. I want to move this knob from over here to over there, and that button is in a really inconvenient spot,’” he said.

Arcwater has already helped power a five-hour operation known as “Shadow Watch” for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an organization tasked with countering weapons of mass destruction, Kenney said. The system was able to provide nearly four hours of electricity using the solar fabric and batteries, even while it snowed.

Spangdahlem has also used Arcwater to turn sewage treated at its wastewater plant into drinkable water, and the system can function as a universal adapter to get potable water from almost any European fire hydrant.

Kenney suggested the creation could prove useful for organizations like the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Connolly, the 52nd Fighter Wing’s innovation manager, added that the German government is interested in piggybacking off of or duplicating Spangdahlem’s efforts as well.

In addition to furthering the conversation about how green technology can help the military, Kenney argues that Arcwater should spur the Air Force to think more about how its needs for agile combat employment will differ around the world.

“[Pacific Air Forces] has a huge ACE footprint, but it looks totally different than what we do in [U.S. Air Forces in Europe]. They’re going to be island-hopping,” he said. “How do we help them use this concept?”

He’d like to have those discussions by midsummer, then expand his horizons to other military branches and agencies outside of the Pentagon by the end of 2022.

“Whether we can go that fast, I don’t know,” he said. “But I keep leaning forward to help other people solve these same problems.”

Click here to view the original article.


A Microgrid That You Can Fit in Your Golf Bag

Microgrid Knowledge  |  April 6, 2022  |  By Elisa Wood

Energy flexibility is the new, new thing. And all microgrids offer it to some degree. But a small Brooklyn, NY, solar firm brings a whole new meaning to the term.

Imagine fitting 1.3 kW of solar energy in a golf bag and it’s so light you can carry it around for use where you need it.

That’s one of the value propositions that Pvilion is putting forward for its solar product, which houses crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells in fabric rather than the glass panels used for conventional solar installations. The result is a product that is lighter and more pliable than solar panels but produces the same amount of power per square foot, according to Colin Touhey, Pvilion co-founder and CEO.

The 12-employee firm is providing its solar fabric tents, canopies and sails for a range of applications — tentlike microgrids for the military, power stations for concert venues, disaster relief outposts and charging stations for commercial and public settings. 

The New York Botanical Gardens features a seating pavilion with eight of Pvilion’s solar fabric canopies where visitors can relax in the shade and charge phones. Seven of the canopies feed into the grid while the eighth powers a battery bank. This type of installation, which costs roughly $10,000, emphasizes the architectural aesthetic that can be achieved with solar fabric.

Military Solar Fabric Microgrids

Under a contract with the US Air Force, Pvilion is developing more complex microgrid solutions — shelters that can be moved quickly and easily for a military on the move, yet provide enough power for modern-day work in a climate-controlled setting.

“We’re creating basically tent cities that are super robust and super high tech — not the MASH tents of the past,” said Touhey in an interview with Microgrid Knowledge. 

The tents must offer what’s needed for contemporary work — power, thermal insulation, and sophisticated climate, heating and lighting control. To help the military achieve this in a tent, Pvilion has designed a hybrid solar fabric microgrid that includes generation, batteries, inverters and software and controls.

Because of their mobility, solar fabric microgrids also act as a fuel-saving technology when the military is undertaking humanitarian relief in remote locations, Touhey said. “Whenever the Red Cross is going in, they’re landing a plane and they’re landing a plane on a US government airstrip. That’s being built out and they need power. They need air, traffic control, satellites, radar communications. That requires a crazy amount of fuel in a traditional setting.”

Replacing the generators with solar fabric reduces the fuel needed, which frees up cargo space on planes for medicine, food and water.

Engineering Tents Like Skyscrapers

Pvilion’s roots go back several decades to a company owned by one of the founders, inventor Todd Dalland who now serves as president. Dalland brought computational analysis into the tent and fabric structures industry, a way of “approaching the structural engineering of a tent the way you approach the structural engineering of a skyscraper — with computers and analysis,” Touhey said.

That company produced materials used by NASA in the space shuttle and an early version of solar fabric that was featured in the Smithsonian’s 1996 future of energy exhibit. After several years of research and development on solar fabric, Pvilion was formed a decade ago to commercialize the product.

Pvilion has taken the slow road to growth, using no venture capital and experimenting in markets for its products that didn’t always pan out. Solar clothing is an example. Given that solar fabric the size of an 8×11 inch piece of paper can charge a cell phone, clothing would appear to be a good market, Touhey said. But Pvilion found major clothing designers fearful of risk and unwilling to place large enough orders to scale the products.

Now, however, a series of trends is working in the company’s favor and Pvilion forecasts that the next 12 to 24 months will bring a doubling of its $3 million-$5 million in annual sales.

Trends Favoring Solar Fabric

In addition to military and government contracts, Touhey sees potential for electric vehicle charging. Its solar fabric is already being used by a heavy equipment rental operation as part of a hybrid microgrid. Car dealerships could follow with mobile solar fabric providing them with flexible charging, particularly as they move vehicle displays around lots.

Building better spaces for socializing and dining outdoors, a trend begun during the pandemic, also lends itself to solar fabric installations. ​​“People didn’t put an addition on the house. They put a pergola outside. There’s no reversing that,” Touhey said.

Lately, the company is fielding a lot of interest from municipalities in search of resilience and power for community spaces. For example, Pvilion is putting in solar canopies, engineered to withstand hurricane winds, in a New York City community garden. 

“It will be to provide power to the folks who work in the community garden and spend their weekends there. But in the case of an emergency, like Hurricane Sandy, it’s a gathering space for the community to charge cell phones, get Wi-Fi, plug in laptops, get medicine,” Touhey said. 

He describes such installations as a new kind of town square gazebo. “This is a gathering space. Well, why shouldn’t that be solar? Why shouldn’t it have plugs?” 

Nothing Too Crazy

As practical as it sounds, solar fabric is different — a concept unfamiliar to most. The world is embracing solar panels and it’s clearly starting to get microgrids. Is it ready to accept solar fabric?

“We’re not really doing anything too crazy. We’re not inventing new materials. We’re inventing new applications of existing materials,” Touhey said. 

Click here to view the original article.