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Smart Solar Wall

With a commitment to green technologies education and reducing electricity usage, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District in Fairbanks, Alaska, along with Whirlwind Solar, a division of Houston based Whirlwind Steel Buildings Inc., announced the completion of a “Solar Wall” installation on the south facing wall of its facility on Minnie Street. The wall is comprised of building integrated photovoltaic panels from United Solar Ovonic LLC, Rochester Hills, Mich., and incorporates innovative thermal insulation techniques, which will reduce energy consumption.

According to Whirlwind Solar’s Fred Reardon, Larry Morris and his team at the Fairbanks North Star Borough Facilities Management developed the unique thermal wall design that incorporates the solar wall laminate technology. After Morris came up with the idea, Reardon made it a concept, and working with Chuck Wiegers of Fairbanks-based A&A Roofing Co. Inc., the concept became a reality. “A & A Roofing, by incorporating some metal craftsman know-how and architectural metals methods and materials expertise created an economical and clean electricity generating wall system," Reardon said.

The 5.44 kW solar array is laminated to Whirlwind’s Weather Snap metal system. Comprised of approximately 80 photovoltaic laminates measuring 16 feet (5 m) wide and 9 1/3 feet (3 m) long, each panel is approximately 1/4-inch (6-mm) thick. The panels fit between the ridges of the building’s standing-seam metal system and faces south for maximum efficiency. Covering an area of approximately 1,000 square feet (93 m2), the combined weight of the panels is approximately 1,000 pounds (450 kg).

Better at capturing off-angle light than traditional crystalline solar panels, the photovoltaic laminate array does not need to be at the perfect tilt angle or Azimuth angle to create a great deal of electricity. The solar laminate utilizes unique triple-junction amorphous silicon solar cells, where the sun’s blue, green and red light is absorbed in different layers of the cell, resulting in better performance in low and diffuse light conditions.

“The Fairbanks North Star Borough has a long history of supporting alternative energy sources, as well as technologies which will make for a cleaner and more energy-efficient school district for our students and faculty," Morris said.

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, Fairbanks, Alaska
Installer: A & A Roofing Co. Inc., Fairbanks
Solar wall distributor: Whirlwind Solar, a division of Whirlwind Steel Buildings Inc., Houston,
Photovoltaic system: United Solar Ovonic LLC, Rochester Hills, Mich.,