Solar energy system turns green initiatives into dollars

Learn how a building-integrated photovoltaic laminate rooftop power plant helped one plant cut energy costs by 30%.

By Peter Garforth, contributing editor

The largest building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) laminate rooftop power plant in the southeast United States is being installed by Hamlin Energy Solutions (www.hamlinenergysolutions.com) at its sheet metal fabrication plant in Benson, N.C.

The 104,000-watt solar energy system covers 24,000 sq. ft. of the 70,000 sq. ft. roof and will generate 156,000 kWh per year, about 30% of the facility’s needs.

“We have seen this solution provide cost-effective solar performance to our customers while reducing a commercial building’s utility dependence, and we knew this was a business focus that fit in well with The Hamlin Companies’ family,” says Will Hamlin, executive vice president of the company, a division of The Hamlin Companies that designs and installs solar energy solutions for the commercial and industrial construction market. “The tax incentives offered by North Carolina make it especially viable and practical for industrial and corporate organizations within our state.”

The cost of a typical system is approximately $7.50 to $8.50 per square foot, depending on the size. Unlike conventional solar panels, Hamlin’s BIPV technology integrates directly with existing roofing infrastructures, giving it a lower installed lifecycle cost per watt of power delivered.

Conventional crystalline solar panels require an additional frame system structure that is typically mounted on top of a roof, requiring additional support for its weight as well as hundreds or even thousands of roof penetrations that make the building prone to leaks. Because they are mounted above the roof surface for cooling, conventional rigid-framed solar panels are more susceptible to wind damage and cannot typically be hurricane-rated. Their glass covers are vulnerable to damages from wind and hailstorms, and their performance is at peak efficiency only during direct sunlight hours.

The BIPV solar material used by HES is a photovoltaic laminate less than 1/8 in. thick that can be fully integrated to the building envelope without penetrations. Compared to rigid-frame crystalline silicon solar panels, the laminates offer better performance on cloudy days and in indirect sunlight, as well as highly impact-resistant Teflon shells.

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