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The Weather Channel Profiles Our "Solar Tree"

The Weather Channel took notice of our installation in Atlanta, and a few others around the country. This illustrates the power of high visibility solar, presented artistically, to increase awareness and consideration of solar. This is actually the fifth TV station to cover Hannah Solar’s “solar tree” (as reporters tend to call it).



Hannah Solar’s Net Zero Building Makes a Statement

Hannah Solar is the largest solar integrator in the fast-growing Georgia market.

Having outgrown their building, Hannah Solar refurbished a building in a bustling area of Atlanta. They turned a (frankly) terrible looking building into a tasteful asset to the neighborhood. And rightly so, they incorporated a rooftop solar system, building efficiency measures, and LED lighting to make the building net zero – it makes more energy than it uses. But the many people who drive by every day couldn’t tell it was a green building, and might have missed the “solar” in their name. Not any more.


The addition of a Spotlight Solar “solar tree” (what people tend to call it) ensures that people notice solar, and Hannah Solar.


The construction process attracted a fair bit of attention. Here is Pete Marte, CEO, being interviewed by one of the three TV reporters who covered the story. Also on hand were executives from Georgia Power, which has facilitated the rapid growth of the solar industry in GA. Leaders from the Atlanta mayor’s office, commercial real estate, investment banking, solar finance, sports marketing, electric vehicle, and even the propane business turned up to see what was up.


The crowd was treated to a lovely day, and gorgeous Lumos solar panels topping the Spotlight Solar “Lift” structure, color-matched to Hannah Solar’s logo.


Now, when cars approach the building, they can’t help but notice solar in a How-About-That way. They will also notice the electric vehicles it is powering with clean energy. Hannah is also the largest installer of EV charging stations in Atlanta.


Our thanks to the Hannah Solar team (a portion of them pictured below) for partnering with us to make solar visible and beautiful. We’re privileged to have Hannah Solar as a Certified Integrator.



Tor Valenza Spotlights Spotlight on Renewable Energy world

Tor Valenza has been a primary solar industry voice for years, and can be found under the @SolarFred handle and UnThink Solar, his marketing services firm. He recently saw fit to write about Spotlight Solar’s approach to making solar visible…and beautiful (OK, that word we added). As he says, he doesn’t normally write about products.

But I’m making the exception this week for Spotlight Solar. Spotlight’s not a typical BIPV solution, but a working aesthetic solar structure that’s also a green PR solution that calls attention to hidden solar.

We really appreciate Tor’s analysis, partially because he’s an influential solar advocate, and especially because he’s a marketer. He recognizes the value-add we’re striving to bring to clients and the industry.

their products are meant to be a complementary added value, calling attention to the real solar solution — rooftop or ground-mount panels that are out of site or difficult to see. Alternatively, they could also be calling attention to other invisible sustainability efforts by the building’s architect, such as the St Louis Rams’ green initiatives.

Another example for its use are the many renovated buildings today that have achieved LEED Platinum status, but beyond the press release, a LEED medallion, or perhaps a small lobby display, the general public might walk on by and never realize that there are solar panels on the roof or that the structure was built with ultra high-efficiency windows, reclaimed wood, and 100% LED lighting. From the outside, it looks like a normal renovated building.

With a Spotlight tower, the same building’s visitors and tenants know their building is green from two blocks away. As a result, Spotlight is part art, part landmark, and part green architecture, and of course, all solar.

This will sound a little self-satisfied, but I’m really pumped that Tor gets it. The solar industry is filled with accomplished people who have made essential strides in technology, cost, policy, and financial mechanisms to facilitate investment. It is not, however, filled with investors in marketing – an equally essential element in building a healthy industry. Tor’s is a lonely voice, calling for practical marketing efforts to help more people recognize the appeal of solar energy. Spotlight Solar’s part is to physically make solar more appealing and visible. It is marketing-as-product.


New product outed - Flora

Tor Valenza, a.k.a. Solar Fred of UnThink Solar posted today on Renewable Energy World about Spotlight, and included mention of a new product we’ve been working on. So, I guess we’d better let Flora out of the lab. We’d love to hear what you think.


This product concept arose through listening. Microgrid Solar, which recently installed our Lift product for the St. Louis Rams, suggested we create something flower-ish, based on napkin drawings they’ve done in collaboration with progressive clients. Microgrid really gets aesthetic solar. So we started talking to other integrators, property owners, and architects while we iterated on an idea. We were able to borrow some elements of Lift which customers have really liked, and have gotten a lot of positive feedback.

Below are some renderings of what it might look like around the Chapel Hill and Raleigh area.



Of course, we wanted to make something aesthetically appealing, but also ensure that it looks purposeful. We try to make beautiful machines which will make a compelling clean energy statement. In this case, we wanted to reference natural forms (flowers) without making a literal copy of a flower. We also wanted to try something smaller than Lift (which is 22’ tall, 24’ wide, and has a power capacity of 3kW). Flora (so far) 16’ tall, 11’ wide, and 1.5kW – about half the size (and price) of Lift. And we wanted to create something that could be installed in groups.


And as usual, we want to make our products flexible, so they can be customized and accessorized. Of course, it’s available in your favorite color combination. It also has two axes of tilt adjustment, and options for seating, power outlets, lighting, and communication displays. As those items get detailed out, we’ll share them.

And we’d love your ideas! Please comment.


Product Update – Lift now with 87% more Awesome

Our installation at Sandy Grove Middle School was the first public appearance of our new-and-improved Lift structures. We made progress…

  1. 50% more energy production
  2. time to assemble is now under one day
  3. four structures fit on one truck
  4. more beautiful (IMHO)

Lift Refinements Graphic v3

DSC_3331Spotlight_Solar_Sandy_Grove-0216 DSC_3328 

How we did it: We listened.

We went to our customers’ sites for several installations, photographed every moment, and discussed with our installer partners what could be better.

We listened to this guy, Andy Stough. 

Sandy Grove installation-9961

He’s engineered rockets, bulldozers, and innovative wind generators. He made a two-way joint for Lift’s solar arrays that moves* like butter, and locks against 140 MPH winds, in an wonderfully simple way. He used a 3D printer to try out the details, and a rare laser shaping machine for production.

We borrowed lessons from my work on other architectural products. Balancing beauty, ease of assembly, flexibility, and function is tough, but it’s what makes a great product. Spotlight products act like Legos, designed with standard parts which go together in different ways.

And we listened to our design advisor, David Hill. He’s good.

Some highlights of changes:

  1. refinements to the shape to convey stability while reducing visual weight
  2. new convenient places to hoist large components
  3. 20 fewer bolts
  4. new, clever ways to adjust the solar arrays (like butter)
  5. Lumos 250 watt solar modules. Elegantly simple, efficient, and beautiful from every angle – even the back.

Don’t worry, it still comes in 200 colors.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on these changes and other ideas you might have for Lift. Please comment.


*No, the arrays don’t track the sun, but they can be oriented in any direction very easily.


Beyond Net Zero Energy

 Last week, four shiny new Spotlight Solar structures were installed at an amazing new school in North Carolina. Sandy Grove Middle School is not just net-zero, it will make more energy than it uses. It has a 590kW solar system, a geothermal system, advanced efficiency, LED lighting throughout, and more. And it has four Spotlight Solar “Lift” structures in vibrant color right in front.


When this school opens in August, it will benefit students, faculty, and parents. And it will lift expectations for the whole community. That’s something we’re proud to be part of. AND, because of its innovation in energy management and the public-private funding method, it will save the taxpayers $35 million.

What is Spotlight’s part? It’s the symbol, the shorthand, the landmark. “Hey, have you seen our new school? I heard it’s really green.” “You mean the one with the cool solar trees out front?” “Yeah, that one!.”

The architect and project developer, Firstfloor is the champion of this project (lead architect Kathryn Lynn, pictured). They, along with our integrator partner, PowerSecure Solar, chose Spotlight Solar to provide the cherry on top of this beyond-net-zero sundae. Not just to look great, but to connect the dots for students. Every morning when the busses unload, kids will walk right under beautiful solar machines, and know they are learning at one of the most future-savvy schools in the country.

Spotlight_Solar_Sandy_Grove-2593    Spotlight_Solar_Sandy_Grove_PowerSecure   

We couldn’t be happier with the result. More pictures here.


We’ll update this story as the building and landscaping reaches completion this summer.


City Hall Spotlights Solar

Last week, a new Spotlight Solar installation was completed at City Hall in Gresham, OR, which borders Portland. The sculptural solar system is set between the city’s modern building and the commuter rail station, so it is very visible.

EveningLight (5)

The City of Gresham has a several clean energy and environmental investments, including about 2000 solar panels at a water treatment plant and (soon) in the city hall parking lot. The Spotlight Solar structures signal the city’s stewardship of the environment and calls every visitor to consider their own choices.  Here is a summary of the city’s green initiatives.


Local news came out to cover the project. An article here.


We partnered closely with REC Solar for the installation of these two sculptural solar systems. The REC team showed amazing attention to detail, the result being a beautiful asset for the city. I joined the team for a couple of days and saw their expertise and crisp execution first hand. It is easy to see why REC has been so successful around the country. Special thanks to Jesse Hayhurst and Bryan Shull. We are grateful and eager to work with REC again. 


We were also thrilled to hear that Spotlight was helpful in winning the larger city project:  a $500K solar parking canopy.  Andy Noel, Director of Business Development at REC, noted,

“Including Spotlight Solar in our proposal was key to winning the project.  The client wanted their solar investment to be visible and attractive, and Spotlight uniquely fit that need.”

The color was chosen by the city to complement the building and its surroundings. I’ll admit that I was concerned about it being a bit standoffish, but having been on site, I think it looks great, especially in sunlight, and echoes the natural palette you see throughout the Portland area.


Solar skyline in charlotte

We’re thrilled to report the arrival of two Spotlight Solar structures in downtown Charlotte.  We’ve always said that solar should be more visible.  This ought to do it.


Local TV liked it enough to run three features.  Thanks!

WCNC-TVSolar Trees added to Uptown Charlotte
WSOC-TV – Crews finish installing solar panels on Discovery Place building
News 14 – Solar Trees planted in Uptown Charlotte

Many thanks to the innovative people at Discovery Place, the science museum hosting this installation (circular glass building). They do great service to the community in all that they do, and this latest contribution will bring greater awareness of solar energy – and a wow factor – to the residents of Charlotte, NC.


The orange “solar tree” (as the press calls them) is oriented toward the summer sun, high in the sky, while the blue one is optimized for winter production. Visitors to Discovery Place will see these on the edge of the parking deck, and find energy production data on a touch-screen display inside the museum (in the glass atrium you see above). They will also learn about the effect of the angle of the sun and shade (the Bank of America Center shades for a while around midday in the winter). Visitors will learn about solar as a clean energy source, and will remember Discovery Place as a fun place to learn new things.


Kudos to Southern Energy Management, our solar integrator partner. Not only did they recognize the promise of visible, attractive solar, they also found a way to accomplish the primary installation work in four hours! They are a great team of committed experts who always do it right, and who have shared and nurtured our vision of great-looking solar.  And thanks as well to Bosch Solar, who donated 24 solar panels for this innovative installation. The City of Charlotte deserves credit as well for supporting this novel installation as part of their Power2Charlotte initiative, furthering their claim to the title City of Energy and complementing the comprehensive Envision Charlotte sustainability program.

An installation on top of a parking deck is unique for Spotlight; normally, our structures live on the ground.  But we’re really excited that well over a million people a year will see these intriguing solar structures each year, in the middle of a bustling city.  More pictures here.