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Electrifying fabric

The United Airlines terminal always gets my attention when I fly into the Denver Airport. The majestic white canvas stretched over a steel frame echoing the snow capped peaks beyond. What if within the fabric was imbedded a solar film powering all the lights in the terminal? That is exactly what PowerFilm Inc. of Ames has in mind.

Mike Coon, VP of Building Integrated Products, says “PowerFilm is collaborating with a world leader in architectural fabrics to make the skin of a building produce electrical power.”

The electricity created could have a direct connection such as an entrance canopy powering the lights at the entry. An indirect connection to energy consumption would be to connect the film to the grid and just know you are reducing the amount of fossil fuel needed to generate electricity.

Experts say the average amount of full sun one can expect in Iowa is four hours per day. As Mike Coon explains, “One could expect five watts per square foot of active material at a full sun rating when the fabric is optimally oriented to the south.” Now let’s put that information in perspective. 

The offices of Architects Smith Metzger has a roof area of about 4,000 square feet. If fabric were stretched over the roof on the average day we could expect 80 kilowatt hours (4,000sf X 5 watts/sf X 4 hours /1000 watts per kilowatt). Over a month, about 2,400 kilowatt hours would be produced or about 25% of the electrical consumption in June.

If you want to learn more look them up at the Iowa State Fair on Expo Hill near the MidAmerican Energy wind generator.


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