Viewing entries in

Beyond Net Zero Energy

 Last week, four shiny new Spotlight Solar structures were installed at an amazing new school in North Carolina. Sandy Grove Middle School is not just net-zero, it will make more energy than it uses. It has a 590kW solar system, a geothermal system, advanced efficiency, LED lighting throughout, and more. And it has four Spotlight Solar “Lift” structures in vibrant color right in front.


When this school opens in August, it will benefit students, faculty, and parents. And it will lift expectations for the whole community. That’s something we’re proud to be part of. AND, because of its innovation in energy management and the public-private funding method, it will save the taxpayers $35 million.

What is Spotlight’s part? It’s the symbol, the shorthand, the landmark. “Hey, have you seen our new school? I heard it’s really green.” “You mean the one with the cool solar trees out front?” “Yeah, that one!.”

The architect and project developer, Firstfloor is the champion of this project (lead architect Kathryn Lynn, pictured). They, along with our integrator partner, PowerSecure Solar, chose Spotlight Solar to provide the cherry on top of this beyond-net-zero sundae. Not just to look great, but to connect the dots for students. Every morning when the busses unload, kids will walk right under beautiful solar machines, and know they are learning at one of the most future-savvy schools in the country.

Spotlight_Solar_Sandy_Grove-2593    Spotlight_Solar_Sandy_Grove_PowerSecure   

We couldn’t be happier with the result. More pictures here.


We’ll update this story as the building and landscaping reaches completion this summer.

City Hall Spotlights Solar

Last week, a new Spotlight Solar installation was completed at City Hall in Gresham, OR, which borders Portland. The sculptural solar system is set between the city’s modern building and the commuter rail station, so it is very visible.

EveningLight (5)

The City of Gresham has a several clean energy and environmental investments, including about 2000 solar panels at a water treatment plant and (soon) in the city hall parking lot. The Spotlight Solar structures signal the city’s stewardship of the environment and calls every visitor to consider their own choices.  Here is a summary of the city’s green initiatives.


Local news came out to cover the project. An article here.


We partnered closely with REC Solar for the installation of these two sculptural solar systems. The REC team showed amazing attention to detail, the result being a beautiful asset for the city. I joined the team for a couple of days and saw their expertise and crisp execution first hand. It is easy to see why REC has been so successful around the country. Special thanks to Jesse Hayhurst and Bryan Shull. We are grateful and eager to work with REC again. 


We were also thrilled to hear that Spotlight was helpful in winning the larger city project:  a $500K solar parking canopy.  Andy Noel, Director of Business Development at REC, noted,

“Including Spotlight Solar in our proposal was key to winning the project.  The client wanted their solar investment to be visible and attractive, and Spotlight uniquely fit that need.”

The color was chosen by the city to complement the building and its surroundings. I’ll admit that I was concerned about it being a bit standoffish, but having been on site, I think it looks great, especially in sunlight, and echoes the natural palette you see throughout the Portland area.

Solar skyline in charlotte

We’re thrilled to report the arrival of two Spotlight Solar structures in downtown Charlotte.  We’ve always said that solar should be more visible.  This ought to do it.


Local TV liked it enough to run three features.  Thanks!

WCNC-TVSolar Trees added to Uptown Charlotte
WSOC-TV – Crews finish installing solar panels on Discovery Place building
News 14 – Solar Trees planted in Uptown Charlotte

Many thanks to the innovative people at Discovery Place, the science museum hosting this installation (circular glass building). They do great service to the community in all that they do, and this latest contribution will bring greater awareness of solar energy – and a wow factor – to the residents of Charlotte, NC.


The orange “solar tree” (as the press calls them) is oriented toward the summer sun, high in the sky, while the blue one is optimized for winter production. Visitors to Discovery Place will see these on the edge of the parking deck, and find energy production data on a touch-screen display inside the museum (in the glass atrium you see above). They will also learn about the effect of the angle of the sun and shade (the Bank of America Center shades for a while around midday in the winter). Visitors will learn about solar as a clean energy source, and will remember Discovery Place as a fun place to learn new things.


Kudos to Southern Energy Management, our solar integrator partner. Not only did they recognize the promise of visible, attractive solar, they also found a way to accomplish the primary installation work in four hours! They are a great team of committed experts who always do it right, and who have shared and nurtured our vision of great-looking solar.  And thanks as well to Bosch Solar, who donated 24 solar panels for this innovative installation. The City of Charlotte deserves credit as well for supporting this novel installation as part of their Power2Charlotte initiative, furthering their claim to the title City of Energy and complementing the comprehensive Envision Charlotte sustainability program.

An installation on top of a parking deck is unique for Spotlight; normally, our structures live on the ground.  But we’re really excited that well over a million people a year will see these intriguing solar structures each year, in the middle of a bustling city.  More pictures here.


Solar Magnet

Our installation at Southern Energy Management in Raleigh-Durham, NC seems to have some gravitational pull.

As SEM would readily admit, their offices are not exactly on Times Square. But in spite of the industrial surroundings, the Spotlight system is attracting a steady stream of visitors. CEOs, government leaders, and community leaders have all made a point to see this new and novel solar system/sculpture/thing.  This is exactly the type of benefit we are trying to bring to our Certified Integrator partners. It comes down to delivering new value to commercial buyers of solar.

One CEO and community leader who visited our installation today looked up at it and said  “Now, I get it!” He was the latest of several to say the same thing. They get that a visible and striking solar system will start conversations among visitors to a property — about clean energy, the environment, and the positive impact measures the property owner has taken. And thus, the property will be differentiated, the owner will earn a reputation for leadership, and more people will consider solar power.


Installation at Southern Energy Management

We installed our new product, Lift, at the offices of Southern Energy Management in Raleigh-Durham, NC. SEM has been a fantastic partner, and was our first Spotlight Solar Certified Integrator.

Many thanks to Budway (really), Jimmy, and Nate for doing a first rate job with something brand new and novel — in the bitter cold and rain no less.   We started off on a bad foot by asking them for a pre-build planning meeting right before Christmas, starting at 5:00.  But they brought a great attitude (typical of Southern Energy), and made the job in January look easy.

In fact, the installation was remarkably easy. The team had to think things through for the first time, so that took a little time, but everything went together well on the first try. Credit to Rob Surra, Spotlight’s leader of product development, for a great design that prioritizes installation.

Thanks as well to Max, David B, James, and JJ at Southern Energy Management. And most of all, thanks to Bob and Maria Kingery, co-founders of SEM, for their unwavering support of Spotlight Solar.  They run a terrific company that serves customers, and higher purposes, extremely well.  We’re privileged to have their partnership.