Working with creative solar customers over the years, one design request emerges frequently and independently: “Can you make it look like the American flag?”
We have adapted this symbol-in-the-sky to SolarSkin® several times now, and this has got us thinking. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that a long-cherished fixture of front yards is evolving into a new medium. Perhaps the rectangular canvas of a solar array lends itself to a flag design. Whatever the main draw, we see this pattern extending into the future!
The American Flag is Woven Into the Sistine Solar Journey
The American flag was featured prominently in early Sistine Solar art to showcase the unlimited design potential. In person, the icon first blanketed a single PV module.
Working out of MIT, we were making swift progress in adjusting the look of SolarSkin® on solar panels. We selected a homely, stitched flag design to demonstrate our technology. Here you can view our finished module being tested on a rooftop in the heart of lively Cambridge.
When Manifest Boston’s Hubweek rolled around in October 2017, we seized the chance to showcase our innovation to a greater audience. This time, we provided a photo-realistic graphic of the Star-Spangled Banner rippling in the wind. The bright red alternates to regions of white tinged with gold, the telltale sign of contact with sunshine. After applying this SolarSkin® to the 6-module array, we unveiled in the full glory of daylight for the Boston community.
Now we document our first permanent American flag project, to be enjoyed for decades. It is a residential project that serves as the world’s first solar flag, with the American flag being the homeowner’s special request.
Project type: Residential
Artwork: American flag design
Location: Charlton, MA
Project Developer: Devlin Solar
Modules: Jinko Solar (Bifacial Panels)
Racking: Dual Axis Tracker by Sun Action Trackers
Devlin Solar partnered with us to fulfill the needs of this visionary customer living in the woods of Massachusetts. The homeowner’s solar array was chosen to occupy a prime spot in the yard, by the road, so it was destined for excellence. We collaborated with Devlin to ensure that the ambitions of the install were realized on two fronts.
The first consideration was how to maximize sunlight on the solar array. The trees that line the property had the potential to cast troublesome shadows on the array. To increase exposure to direct sunlight, Devlin installed a dual axis tracker.
As the Earth spins, day in and day out, the tracker allows the mounted solar panels to follow the sun and to trace out an arc parallel to the ground. The array initiates each new day facing east and finishes facing west. At high noon, the array is perfectly positioned to drink up the perpendicular beams of light offered from above. This is Axis Number One.
As the Earth revolves around the sun, the angle of the panel ideally changes, too. This enables the panels to catch more direct sunlight according to the sun’s height in the sky. Axis Number Two of the tracker adjusts for this throughout the year, tilting the array up or down as needed.
Just like that, the clever homeowner eluded a limiting factor in solar panel efficiency that many others have to bear. Rather than resigning to a fixed solar array on the roof, the homeowner opted for a dynamic system as animated as the sun itself is. In many cases, dynamic systems boost solar array efficiency by as much as 35% more. Therefore, the net energy change from traditional fixed systems is positive. The tracker system will expend energy to swivel and tilt, but it will earn back even more.
The dual tracker paired with a selection of bifacial solar panels from Jinko Solar. The solar customer doubled the potential surface area for electricity production with this choice.
The second design decision was an opportunity for everyone’s artistic taste to shine. While the homeowner was highly efficiency-conscious, the homeowner was also eager to customize the install, to visibly own it. Sistine Solar was called in to help the solar customer’s expression of pride in both energy independence and in country.
We aimed to replicate a traditional American flag planted on the lawn in front of a household. As usual, the homeowner provided input on brightness of the graphics to account for the effect on efficiency.
The final design is a billowing banner in the wind. The team decided to present an airy graphic on the grounded solar array, as if the flag were tossing nobly from on high, watching over the ecosystem of homeowner and passing cars below.
Today, the homeowner enjoys the passionately installed array just by glancing out the window. Drivers in the area, meanwhile, have their attention drawn towards a stylish utility complex of red, white, and blue—an efficient snapshot of beautiful renewable energy to sustain them as they push through their wooded journey.
Stars and Stripes absorbing rays from our solar system’s central star. We find a delightful symbolism of entrepreneurial stewardship in this combination. In an energetic country that has long solved problems through technology and business, we now have growing energy demands and expanding ambitions, still largely met with unclean fuel sources. Why not implement a solar flag to remind ourselves of our problem-solving history in the face of our current energy problems?
The adoption of solar, house by house, has potential to be technology and business at the service of our biggest problems once again. We are hoping that aesthetic solar will simply quicken the pace of this adoption.
To install your own solar flag or any other unique design, visit here.