With building code restrictions and numerous other physical obstacles, New York rooftops aren’t exactly the easiest places to install flat solar panels. One enterprising startup, Brooklyn SolarWorks, has devised an ingenious way to make solar power generation much easier to implement in urban environments. The Solar Canopy is an elevated tent-like structure covered in 2.5- by 5-foot photovoltaic panels that stands 10 feet above a roof, making it work around common city code regulations.
Brooklyn residents, like most New Yorkers, face quite a few obstacles when looking to add solar power to their homes. Not only is there a space issue, but most city roofs are usually cluttered with skylights, hatches, and HVAC systems, making panel installation quite difficult, if not altogether impossible.
Luckily, necessity often breeds great design. Brooklyn SolarWorks co-founder T.R. Ludwig worked with the Brooklyn firm Situ Studio to create the solar canopy, which has the potential to bring solar power to Brooklyn as well as to other parts of New York. Each canopy comprises a 2.5- by 5-foot photovoltaic panel mounted onto a 9-foot A-frame column bolted to rails that are then secured to the building.
“We imagine what happens underneath these things will vary greatly from home to home,” says co-founder Brad Samuels. “You have to imagine this as an infrastructure that primarily supports solar but also creates a new space on top of roofs. Every person will customize it a bit differently. That can’t be designed exactly, but it can be designed for.”
Making the design as flexible as possible, Situ created a parametric system that allows the canopies to be custom fitted to each roof’s measurements. This feature also ensures that the product adheres to city codes, which is a major factor in small-scale solar energy production.
As far as cost, one canopy of 15 to 18 panels, which is the size needed to generate the estimated energy needs of a family of four, runs around $30,000. “Payback on these things is typically about six years,” Ludwig says.
Like most solar panel systems, the canopy design is not exactly discreet. However, Ludwig sees the visibility as great publicity. “We think as more people go on their own roofs and they see their neighbors going solar with canopies, that’s going to add a viral effect to going solar,” he said. “That’s our dream of course.”
Images vis Brooklyn SolarWorks