Small Business & Startups, Sustainability, and Technology

Solar startup founder secures patent

February 3, 2016
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Solar startup creates commercial line
Electrical engineer Ed Brandel, left, and James Wolter, president and CEO of Energy Partners, with a Solar24 battery pack and solar panel. Courtesy GVSU

A Grand Valley State University business incubator tenant has been awarded a U.S. patent for his solar technology innovation.

The patent was awarded to James Wolter, founder of Energy Partners, which is a tenant at GVSU’s Michigan Alternative & Renewable Energy Center, or MAREC, for a modular solar panel mounting system that's designed to be lighter, easier to install and significantly cheaper than traditional systems.

"Traditional photovoltaic installations require structural support pieces that are heavy, expensive and add to the labor required to install," Wolter said.

He said his “lighter, simpler design” is achieved by integrating everything into a “unique structural skin design.”

He said the monocoque concept, which has been used in racecar and aircraft design, greatly reduces solar photovoltaic system installation time and cost, reduces the weight of panels, allows greater power generation throughout the day and makes panels stronger.

Combined with new technology that would allow spray-on solar components, the newly patented design would reduce manufacturing time and costs and reduce the number of components needed in a system.

The design would allow companies to pre-assemble most of the panels and supports in a manufacturing setting rather than in the field.

Right now, on-site assembly can be complicated.

Wolter’s product simplifies the process to just installing posts, sliding assemblies together and plugging in the electrical connections.

"Energy Partners is really strengthening its intellectual property portfolio with this new patent, and we're glad to support their growth," said Tom Hopper, associate director for business, MAREC.

MAREC is focused on “developing robust technology companies” by supporting the commercialization of innovative technology and business models.

Energy Partners was founded to develop and commercialize Wolter's intellectual property on renewable energy technologies.

Its battery-backed solar product, currently sold under the Solar24 brand, offers 24/7 power availability.

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