A New York-based company is building electric-vehicle charging stations that include solar panels in Brooklyn and says it has sold its first, in central Texas.

Pvilion, which was founded last year, says it has installed one of its stations, called the Solar Sail, in Pflugerville, TX, just outside of Austin. The company says Solar Sail's design allows the stations to be custom-built to a location's specifications because Pvilion uses lightweight materials such as solar panels that are just 1/8th of an inch thick. Pvilion CEO Colin Touhey says the stations cost about $85,000 and is promoting them as a way for companies and municipalities to promote their environmentally-friendly efforts.

Solar-powered EV stations are considered the ultimate in green transportation because they allow an electric vehicle to be recharged using renewable energy. Last summer, Mitsubishi Motors unveiled its publicly-accessible solar-powered charging station at its North American headquarters in California. That station, which was built with a system designed by Eaton and includes 96 175-watt photovoltaic modules, cost about $130,000 to build. SolarCity is another company working on this mission.

By 2017, about $4.3 billion will be spent globally on EV charging equipment, up from about $400 million in 2011, green-technology research firm Pike Research said late last year.
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Pvilion uses photovoltaics (PV) to create eco-friendly and innovative architectural structures through a proprietary patent pending technology, seamlessly integrating flexible solar modules and stainless steel. The goal is to incorporate modern materials and technology into architectural design, using thin film solar panels to provide the structure with renewable energy.

After decades of experience in the fabric architecture industry Todd Dalland, Robert Lerner and Colin Touhey started Pvilion in 2011 to create an all-encompassing design, engineering, and manufacturing operation in New York City. Based on the principles of Dalland's original company founded in 1977, Lerner's architecture experience, and Touhey's renewable energy engineering, Pvilion uses tensile structures as the basis for their designs, but to modernize, manufactures flexible PV materials, allowing the sun to generate power to for the structure. Pvilion uses materials that are lightweight and flexible, allowing the product to be manufactured and tested in a Brooklyn factory and transported to the structure's final location. Each design is completely customizable and dependent on the clients' wants and needs.

New York City-based Pvilion Inc. has completed a turnkey solar charging station for battery-powered cars in Pflugerville, Texas, a suburb of Austin, at its new, eco-friendly Renewable Energy Industrial Park. The Solar Sail's flexible, 1/8" thick solar panels are tensioned on flexible stainless steel sheets that provide electricity to the utility grid, even when cars are not charging. The founders of Pvilion, Todd Dalland, Robert Lerner and Colin Touhey designed and built the structure at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and installed it earlier this month. The Solar Sail is the first flexible PV panel charging station of its kind and serves to aide in the promotion of the City of Pflugerville and the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation. Floyd Akers, Director of the PCDC said, "The Solar Sail acts as a sculptural, solar energy 'gateway' to our city, as well as our new industrial park." In the past decade, the founders of Pvilion have worked on perfecting their flexible PV panel design and construction technology by working with the most efficient, durable and lightweight new flexible PV cell technologies available, and integrating them with their renowned lightweight building design and manufacturing skills.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 29 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Thanks for taking the time to comment; it's much appreciated! The Solar Sail is grid-connected and net-metered, though pvilion can also offer a battery-based solution. This way, the solar sail is sending solar energy to the grid whenever there is sunlight, and taking energy from the grid to charge battery-powered vehicles and power the LED RGB lights whenever needed. The Solar Sail has separate inverters built into each of the 12 solar modules which makes it a simple 'one AC plug in/one AC plug out' hook-up. This avoids the considerable energy loss when going through a battery storage system. Solar installations are functional at any installation latitude; if you are further north you just need to add more panels! Germany is leading the way with solar panel installations, and it's farther north than New York. Incentives and tax breaks are key to the development and scaling of all solar, and other renewable energy systems. The Solar Sail has been engineered by licensed professionals to meet permanent building code wind and snow loads, like other buildings. The beauty here is that it has been done with a skill that achieves "lightness." The cost of Solar Sail depends on the quantity of units purchased. Pvilion also offers turn-key sales which include all components integrated into a ready-out-of-the-truck, plug-and-play installation. These flexible solar panels are mounted on stainless steel, and tensioned into a steel compression frame structure. The inverters, LED RGB lighting, wiring, columns and charging station bollards, can all be included, in addition to foundations and installation. Also, not to be ignored is the value added to the promotion of clean energy that includes great design integrating art and technology!
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        Thanks for posting. It should be noted though that Germany has blown 136 billion Euros on solar which provides 0.3% of their power. Just because something can be done doesn't mean it is a sensible or economic thing to do. So what is the cost per kwh of the power from your module at the latitude of New York? What is the installed cost per kw of nominal power, and what capacity factor are you working to for that installation? Including subsidy, how many times more expensive is this than using grid natural gas powered electricity? Is this in any way economic, or simply a subsidy play? If the former, please provide the figures to substantiate your claim.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Dave, It's hard to do anything with green energy without inadvertently running into a government subsidy these days. This particular installation was built to be the focal point of a new business park and paid in full. It did take advantage of the Department of Energy's grant program that provided charging stations to municipalities. So, the two individual vehicle charging units were provided, but the design, fabrication, construction, and installation were all paid with real money. These units currently provide electricity free of charge to the public; the solar power generated has covered all electric costs to date. This unit serves as "art" and a focal point for the development rather than a revenue generator. I doubt that charging for electricity would cover the development costs in any reasonable timeframe, but that wasn't the point here. Your frustration with the viability of renewable energy is misdirected at this particular project.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Hmm. You seem to have gone awfully quiet since I asked what you are offering actually costs, and whether it is just a ploy to produce minimal amounts of electricity at great cost and take huge amounts of taxpayers subsidies. Nole contendere, then, is it?
      SpeedyRacer
      • 3 Years Ago
      I hope they are strong enough to hold up in wind gusts. Looks kinda flimsy. Wish them the best though.
      • 3 Years Ago
      $85,000 or more? Yeah, good luck with that.
        Greg
        • 3 Years Ago
        Assuming the sail is around 450 sq ft, that should be something like a 5.5 kW system. I've seen estimates for a 2-2.5 kW system for under $20k, so these things should cost under to $50k. But maybe the cost doesn't factor in govt subsidies or other incentives.
          marcopolo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Greg
          Greg I would think that $85,000 is quite cheap. Your estimate doen't allow for all knds of contruction costs and other overheads.
        MTN RANGER
        • 3 Years Ago
        Remember these solutions are for corporations or municipalities. For regular people, a house-based PV system will be a much cheaper alternative and more energy efficient (no wasted electricity when grid-connected).
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @MTN RANGER
          Yes the price is absurd. It is not meant to reflect the actual cost of part and labor... but the price of saying, "Look how Green I am". The same motivations that corporations have to buy 30 seconds of TV advertisement time during the Superbowl for 2 million dollars.... if a company or municipality needs to promote an environmentally conscience image... that is what is worth the $85,000.
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      Its a good job people in New York only drive 30% as much in December as they do in June: http://www.gaisma.com/en/location/new-york-ny.html That's because they only get around 27% as much sunshine then as in June. Everybody and their car is trying to get hold of tax dollars to set up silly systems at great cost.
      EZEE
      • 3 Years Ago
      Question for the Smart Kids - would this thing lay for itself with current pricing on the unit (he said unit) and electricity? I suppose battery replace,ent would need to be factored in.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        No. It is a machine for collecting subsidies that also happens to generate a small amount of electricity, sometimes. Here is a levelised cost calculator, so feed in the figures: http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html What that won't show is that if you want to charge at night, you are SOL unless you have an expensive battery bank. As for annual variation, forget it. There is no way of storing the excess energy in the summer into the winter. There are weasel words used, such as 'supported by the grid' ie in fact in the winter it produces little power, so more load just goes onto the grid, which is already coping with the winter peak. This, in contrast, is a real power system, which is expensive at the moment but can get cheaper: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/03/ap-fce-20120305.html An installation of these lines using fuel cells can run on sewage etc and provide either hydrogen or electricity or both. In contrast this solar array is not much use in New York as long as the earth continues to be round. Arizona is a different matter, where you could sell parking spaces in the shade and the solar array would shave peak load, as there is little peak in the winter so you only have to provide for the summer peak.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          BTW It is a good job that it never snows in New York, as not only does a light dusting cut off all output, but heavy falls would need clearing as the weight could damage this very flimsy looking structure. People clambering about on roofs have a really substantial accident rate. Who said solar is safe?
      JamesJ
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why is that picture above showing the solar charger charging a night? It doesn't seem like it would do much good if there is no sunlight for the solar panels to collect.
      fairfireman21
      • 3 Years Ago
      I find it real funny how they are talking about Solar but they show the picture with it under the stars at night. How does it work? Doesn't solar mean sun power not star power.
      SNP
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is the most ridiculous in EV contraption i've seen. 85k to generate almost nothing. I wanna know when those fusion plant experiments at NIF are complete. That is the only true green for the next thousand years. all this talk about harnessing sunlight with expensive dirty panels that last 30yrs @ 15% efficiency is so stupid. And I hate all the hacks and greenies who think it will power our future forever and ever. The only thing worth investing in this whole green movement has been battery capacity. Everything else are just toys that dont do much.
        Peder Norby
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SNP
        SNP, you're a funny guy. I do what you say is a pipe dream everyday at an economic cost far less than gasoline. http://electric-bmw.blogspot.com/2012/03/solar-sundaysimple.html
          SNP
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Peder Norby
          exactly what I mean. bunch of morons. how much does that solar setup cost, the battery, the real estate cost, the wiring, the down time you're not able to drive, the limited travel and frequency of travel. Imagine someone coming up to you and telling you to buy a gas station for your gasoline engine car. And that gas station can only be refueled at certain times of the day and only on good days, and the refueling process takes hours, and there's only enough power for so few cars. That's why it's so absurd. Suckers talk about saving the world, but they really think it should start in their own backyard with construction and installation of very large panels everywhere. If you really cared about the world and saving the planet why dont you put your money into recycling, reforestation, invest in energy efficient products. Intel's new CPU's use 33% less energy. That's for every home computer in the country. That's how you save energy and lower emissions. Change all your bulbs out, insulate your home a lot better, get a smaller house, use laptops instead of desktops, get a smaller tv, get OLED screens, use less stuff, waste less stuff, teach other people to use less stuff. You're not saving the world with these stupid panels.
        JakeY
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SNP
        Calling others "hacks" while backing something that has a long way to go even in the lab (much less in a commercial setting generating real power for consumers)? Hmm, not so sure about that.
          JakeY
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          @SNP Solar panels are working right now generating power for consumers. What you propose isn't. That's all the evidence I need. You sound like those people who like to trash BEVs and then ask people to wait for hydrogen powered cars. Actually scratch that, hydrogen powered cars aren't the right analogy because they at least have some fleets running (even if not one car has been sold yet). There hasn't been one fusion powerplant demonstrated running, much less one that will be cost effective and generate power for consumers. And you are here trashing solar panels on that basis? And no one said solar panels are the only renewable energy game in town. Wind, hydro, geothermal, and other types of solar power (like solar thermal) will all be options. As for all your talk about impact of production of solar panels, even in the worst case (with the least efficient panels made with the dirtiest electricity), pollution from solar panels are 90% lower than coal at 55g/kWh. http://green.autoblog.com/2012/03/14/new-york-company-pitches-solar-sail-ev-charging-stations/#aol-comments
          SNP
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          my post from below: exactly what I mean. bunch of morons. how much does that solar setup cost, the battery, the real estate cost, the wiring, the down time you're not able to drive, the limited travel and frequency of travel. Imagine someone coming up to you and telling you to buy a gas station for your gasoline engine car. And that gas station can only be refueled at certain times of the day and only on good days, and the refueling process takes hours, and there's only enough power for so few cars. That's why it's so absurd. Suckers talk about saving the world, but they really think it should start in their own backyard with construction and installation of very large panels everywhere. If you really cared about the world and saving the planet why dont you put your money into recycling, reforestation, invest in energy efficient products. Intel's new CPU's use 33% less energy. That's for every home computer in the country. That's how you save energy and lower emissions. Change all your bulbs out, insulate your home a lot better, get a smaller house, use laptops instead of desktops, get a smaller tv, get OLED screens, use less stuff, waste less stuff, teach other people to use less stuff. You're not saving the world with these stupid panels.
          SNP
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          @JakeY: 90% based on what? panels lasting 30yrs with no repair/maintenance/replacements? 90% built by ultra modern, low waste, energy efficient factories? 90% vs coal, our dirtiest solution? Comparatively speaking. Nat gas is dirt cheap, we've got plenty of it, and coupled with BloomBox fuel cells we get financial recuperation in 7yrs (@2009 natgas prices), lasts 15yrs a box, and doesnt need several acres of solar panel farm land. Completely reliable, controllable, cheap, and can hold us off until better technology comes out. Solar panels are a total crock and this site keeps advertising the most ridiculous products. ...gas stations with $100k solar panels mounted on top so cars can charge for a few hours...solar panels mounted on cars for $15k on top of $15k battery....solar panel mounted driveways for all of us so we'd have our own "gas station" at home...all that constructions gotta be clean, right? No waste in all of us having our own solar power source with batteries and cooling and wiring mounted on our homes, all so we can charge a few light bulbs at home. All to save 50 cents a week. I'm in nyc, i've got a ranch style house, 6 rooms. My energy bill is $200/month. My electricity cost is $30/month. 75% of the bill goes into infrastructure maintenance and fees. A sum i'd have to pay whether or not I have $10k worth of solar panels on my roof. Sure as hell is hard to beat $30 a month. I can crank up the central A/C all summer and my energy costs only hit $100..
          SNP
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          so far away that this is the first attempt the govt poured 9B into building a massive ignition facility and set a deadline for 2020 to get a plant online. Even if it's delayed by 10-20yrs, it's still gotta better future powering the world than solar panels. The results will be coming in a few months, if it fails, we've still got semiconductor lasers that's way more accurate and powerful. Can you imagine solar panels covering all of texas to power this nation assuming we dont demand more energy. And then we have to replace all those panels every 30yrs. And those panels generate nothing 1/3rd the time. Meanwhile 5 regular nuclear plants for $10-20B total can provide more power than $200B worth of solar panels.
        marcopolo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SNP
        @ SNP "And I hate all the hacks and greenies who think it will power our future forever and ever"" My goodness, you are so right. Those Solar fools, forever and ever, ha! The Sun will nova in about 5 billion years! Then where will they be with those silly panels, that's when you'll have the last laugh!
          SNP
          • 3 Years Ago
          @marcopolo
          yeah, each panel will really last you forever. You really think each panel will even last you 30yrs? You're not buying floor tiles, you're buying expensive glass and electronics and placing it outside in unpredictable weather conditions - all of which is coming from the lowest bidder. Do you really think manufacturing a simple piece of glass is going to be that expensive and clean? You really think the reason these panels are so pricey is because it's all hand made and each square is identical because the assembly worker is a perfectionist? They use lots of chemicals and heavy machines. The heavy machinery making these panels are made with rare earths that heavier machines dig deep into the ground and mine for on the backs of near slave labor in parts of the world you will never see. All this just to produce a piece of glass that generates a little bit of electricity off of a fraction of light the panel could absorb.
        SNP
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SNP
        I'm actually pro-more efficient engines. I'm pro battery development. Pro using nat gas instead of crude. Pro fuel cell development. Pro nukes, fusion, hydro, thermal, and some forms of wind farms and solar power plants. I am in no way for tiny wind mills, home solar panels or any solar panels for that matter. I am not for pure battery based cars on today's tech. The whole idea behind the stupid solar panels is that you never have higher energy demands. And that is just ridiculous. Innovation outside of energy development demands higher energy needs. Mounting solar panels on roofs, and cars to save the world is so absurd. It takes so much energy/dirty resources to build these panels and it sips energy for you. And if you're lucky enough for the panel to last 30yrs, and the efficiency never degrades over time, and doesnt need any structural repairs over time, and your energy demands never go up, and the batteries that store the power doesnt need to be replaced, then it just MIGHT be worth it. Which is exactly why it's so stupid. And then to make it more absurd, they convince all the greenies that you can build these panels in the north and sell the solar energy back to make a profit despite all the transmission losses, and parts failure. We're not in space, these panels arent highly efficient. You get 18% at best off these panels and a 1x1ft panel can only power a CFL light bulb so long as you have a battery and the bulb isnt on the whole time. How much energy is consumed to melt that glass/silicate panel? How much energy to mount it, transport it, repair it, replace it, all for the sake of a little bit of power a day. It's like living off grass for food - you get so little benefit, you'd might as well put your effort on something with bigger returns. Just a waste of money.
        SNP
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SNP
        October 2012 - NIF experiment to see if we can finally harness the power of the sun in a power plant. A power plant that consumes our almost unlimited supply of water while generating radiation at a fraction of uranium based ones with a half-life of a few days. I hope it's not a ploy to coincide with the elections, and if it is...i still hope it works.
          SNP
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SNP
          Japan is scheduled to shut down 90% of their nuclear reactors. Germany is scheduled to shut down 100% of their nuclear reactors. US doesnt care to build many new ones. If this works...holy hell...no more talk about these stupid panels and propellers at the beach.
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