A grant from the California Energy Commission to Konarka Technologies Inc. will support the company’s efforts to bring aesthetically integrated plastic photovoltaics to the roofing market. Funding will come from the Energy Innovations Small Grant Program, which is part of the commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program. Konarka Technologies, headquartered in Lowell, Mass., develops polymer-based photovoltaic products that provide a source of renewable power in a variety of form factors for commercial, industrial, government and consumer applications.
Over the next 12 months, Konarka will apply the grant to examine the potential for coating-patterned power plastic roofing materials that mimic the appearance of traditional roofing products. Aesthetics and cost have been key hurdles in increasing market penetration for photovoltaic power in the residential roofing market. The Konarka-enhanced roofing materials will embed renewable energy generation functionality, rather than require consumers to purchase and install separate aftermarket solar panels as is typically done now. The Konarka materials will cost less, blend with the aesthetics of the building and help consumers avoid violating their roofs' warranties when going green.
"Konarka is trying to change the way solar technologies are perceived both in terms of their image and application," said Daniel McGahn, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Konarka. "It's always been easy to spot a solar house—the big, bulky, rigid glass panels are so conspicuous. With this grant, what we're trying to do is provide the same functionality, but with the appearance of everyday roofing material. It will be lightweight, flexible and seamlessly incorporated with colors, patterns or images."
This week, Konarka will discuss their photovoltaic technology and related business issues at Solar Power 2004. The conference runs this Monday through Thursday at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. Konarka's chairman and CEO, Howard Berke, will discuss venture capital funding in the solar industry. Konarka's chief scientist and director, Alan Heeger, will participate in a Nobel Laureate panel discussion, titled "Electricity from Sunlight." In addition, the company will exhibit its power plastic materials.