A few years ago, Robert Noble, an architect, wasasked to design a solar carport for Kyocera. He Googled "solar carport" and essentially nothing turned up. No industry, no market, and notechnology.
And then, "It hit him like a ton of bricks." In histhinking, carports were "the largest single market for distributed solar power generation." "It’s betterthan drilling into a waterproofed roof," according to Noble.
"The best market for solar is out over parking lots," said Noble.
He soon left Tucker Sadler, an architectural firm, to form Envision Solar — a startup bootstrapped by himself, friends andcolleagues. This week, the San Diego, California-based company begantrading on the OTC bulletin boards via a reverse merger.
Noble’steam designed a solar “tree” with a central pillar supporting a platform topped with solar modules which shades about eight cars. A typicalsolar tree design can generate about 7.5 kilowatts of DC power.
One of Envision’s differentiators, according to Noble, now the CEO, isthat, "We are architects and planners," who know how to "design,engineer and build."
His design incorporated the idea thataesthetics were critical and that it needed to incorporate shade andweather protection. According to Noble, "It’s not just aboutkilowatt-hours produced." This flies in the face of the idea that solar is a commodity.
Noble adds, arguably,that solar installation has (or will) become the domain of builders andelectrical contractors like Mcbride Electric and Cupertino Electricsince these companies are already on the rooftop with extensive building experience. He claims that solar installation is now "about thebuilding industry."
While the term acronym BIPV, buildingIntegrated Photovoltaics, is tossed around quite a bit, Noble prefersthe acronym SIIBS for Solar Integrated Infrastructure and BuildingSystems. The firm has about 17 projects built, a total of about 9megawatts built or designed and a "pipeline of solar parking projects."
The company has started with solar car ports but has a range of newproducts in development including, naturally, adding charging stationsfrom the likes of Coulomb to the mix. It makes sense considering the cars and the power are already right there.
Other products inthe works include tracking options for the canopies and solar trees made out of fiberglass and resin that are lighter and cheaper. Prefabricated solar buildings are also on the drawing board.
Envision has not taken venture capital in its brief existence. With theliquidity and the ability to raise capital that comes with being apublic, albeit small cap, company — Noble sees the firm as as having a scalable model with an aim of rolling-up other companies under theEnvision banner.
The CEO said," We are absolutely unique. We are a deployment of solar that most people from the building industry canunderstand."