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Columbia University Developing Hybrid Integrated Solar Energy System

Columbia University Developing Hybrid Integrated Solar Energy SystemWeidlinger Associates and Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science announced recentlythat they have recieved a Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program grant, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), to expedite research of a “Hybrid Building Integrated Solar Energy System for Photovoltaic, Thermoelectric, and Heat Utilization.” The $150,000 award is being matched by an additional 10% commitment from New York State.

The multi-layered building-integrated solar panel, developed by Columbia Engineering professor Huiming Yin, produces both electricity and hot water. Initial tests suggest that it could achieve unprecedented cost and energy efficiencies. The patent-pending hybrid functions as a roof element rather than an accessory.

Only three of the 107 U.S. advanced technology firms that received initial grants were from New York State, and only this team was from New York City. This highly competitive award (there were 950 applicants) represents an $18 million investment of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds in clean energy technologies developed by U.S. small businesses. The most promising of these projects will qualify for another $60 million next summer in anticipation of selection for a Phase II grant to enhance the product’s marketability. As structural engineer, Weidlinger will contribute expertise in codes, materials, and constructability, focusing on design of the panel substrate and connection system and analysis of the demonstration building. HLW International will advise the team on fire resistance, waterproofing, insulation, aesthetics, and related architectural issues.

Feniosky Peña-Mora, dean of Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science said;

“Columbia Engineering is pleased to be collaborating with Weidlinger Associates in this important advance in hybrid solar panels. The new generation of solar panels to be developed from this collaboration will be able to produce both electricity and hot water, paving the way for large-scale changes in the housing industry that will bring sustainable energy to a new level.”

Dr. Raymond Daddazio, Weidlinger President and CEO remarked,

 “This is a milestone in Weidlinger’s long and highly productive association with Columbia Engineering. We welcome the opportunity to explore sustainable technologies and this promising concept as their partner.”

Columbia University Developing Hybrid Integrated Solar Energy SystemThe new panel merges and improves upon proven photovoltaic and thermoelectric power-generation technologies. It is more effective than conventional photovoltaic panels at high temperatures and because of reduced thermal stresses, deteriorates less rapidly from environmental insults. As a building-integrated element that replaces structural sheathing and roofing materials, it represents the next generation of solar technology. Eliminating the redundancies of conventional non-integrated systems should lead to significant savings in materials and embodied carbon. Eliminating the numerous penetrations required for mounting detachable panels assures fewer leaks. The new panel technology is applicable to any type of roof, to new construction and renovation, and to a range of building types, from single-family homes to large commercial buildings.

Experimental verification of Dr. Yin’s model advances fundamental understanding of the problem and sets a new standard for assessing long-term performance of solar solutions. Experimentation, development, and proofing for strength, performance, and durability will be conducted in the Robert A.W. Carleton Strength of Materials Laboratory of Columbia’s Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. “Thorough testing of the concept will play an especially important role in the development of this technology because of its multi-use nature covering structural, thermal, and solar aspects,” stated Professor Rene Testa, Carleton’s Director of Research. The Laboratory has a long history of supporting NYC infrastructure projects. In this application, its facilities will be used not only to test structural aspects but to simulate various weather conditions in a test chamber for predicting the panel’s performance and establishing the optimal configuration of the solar array.

This is Weidlinger’s first sustainability research collaboration since the firm began seeking opportunities to contribute to the sustainable movement, beyond designing LEED-certified buildings. Weidlinger is listed as one of ENR’s top green firms, and was the structural and civil engineer for the LEED-Platinum Queens Botanical Gardens Visitors Center, among other projects. Weidlinger is also the LEED consultant (and structural, civil, and geotechnical engineer) for a new retail pavilion on Liberty Island and designed an infrastructure plan for development of the Homeport section of Stapleton, Staten Island, to meet the standards of a LEED Neighborhood pilot program.The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (, as a part of Columbia University, a world-class teaching and research university, strives to educate socially-responsible engineering and applied science leaders whose work results in the betterment of the human condition, locally, nationally, and globally. The Robert A.W. Carleton Strength of Materials Laboratory (www.civil.carleton. edu/carleton) is a large facility equipped for advanced research and testing of engineering materials and structural elements. Associated with the school’s Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, the Laboratory supports undergraduate and graduate education at Columbia and engages in research that “contributes to fundamental knowledge” and has “practical application to the infrastructure and to the built environment in general.” Its mission encompasses support of the City of New York and the country with “specialized laboratory and field testing as needed, especially for non-routine applications.”

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