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Tor Valenza

Tor Valenza Spotlights Spotlight on Renewable Energy world

Tor Valenza has been a primary solar industry voice for years, and can be found under the @SolarFred handle and UnThink Solar, his marketing services firm. He recently saw fit to write about Spotlight Solar’s approach to making solar visible…and beautiful (OK, that word we added). As he says, he doesn’t normally write about products.

But I’m making the exception this week for Spotlight Solar. Spotlight’s not a typical BIPV solution, but a working aesthetic solar structure that’s also a green PR solution that calls attention to hidden solar.

We really appreciate Tor’s analysis, partially because he’s an influential solar advocate, and especially because he’s a marketer. He recognizes the value-add we’re striving to bring to clients and the industry.

their products are meant to be a complementary added value, calling attention to the real solar solution — rooftop or ground-mount panels that are out of site or difficult to see. Alternatively, they could also be calling attention to other invisible sustainability efforts by the building’s architect, such as the St Louis Rams’ green initiatives.

Another example for its use are the many renovated buildings today that have achieved LEED Platinum status, but beyond the press release, a LEED medallion, or perhaps a small lobby display, the general public might walk on by and never realize that there are solar panels on the roof or that the structure was built with ultra high-efficiency windows, reclaimed wood, and 100% LED lighting. From the outside, it looks like a normal renovated building.

With a Spotlight tower, the same building’s visitors and tenants know their building is green from two blocks away. As a result, Spotlight is part art, part landmark, and part green architecture, and of course, all solar.

This will sound a little self-satisfied, but I’m really pumped that Tor gets it. The solar industry is filled with accomplished people who have made essential strides in technology, cost, policy, and financial mechanisms to facilitate investment. It is not, however, filled with investors in marketing – an equally essential element in building a healthy industry. Tor’s is a lonely voice, calling for practical marketing efforts to help more people recognize the appeal of solar energy. Spotlight Solar’s part is to physically make solar more appealing and visible. It is marketing-as-product.

New product outed - Flora

Tor Valenza, a.k.a. Solar Fred of UnThink Solar posted today on Renewable Energy World about Spotlight, and included mention of a new product we’ve been working on. So, I guess we’d better let Flora out of the lab. We’d love to hear what you think.


This product concept arose through listening. Microgrid Solar, which recently installed our Lift product for the St. Louis Rams, suggested we create something flower-ish, based on napkin drawings they’ve done in collaboration with progressive clients. Microgrid really gets aesthetic solar. So we started talking to other integrators, property owners, and architects while we iterated on an idea. We were able to borrow some elements of Lift which customers have really liked, and have gotten a lot of positive feedback.

Below are some renderings of what it might look like around the Chapel Hill and Raleigh area.



Of course, we wanted to make something aesthetically appealing, but also ensure that it looks purposeful. We try to make beautiful machines which will make a compelling clean energy statement. In this case, we wanted to reference natural forms (flowers) without making a literal copy of a flower. We also wanted to try something smaller than Lift (which is 22’ tall, 24’ wide, and has a power capacity of 3kW). Flora (so far) 16’ tall, 11’ wide, and 1.5kW – about half the size (and price) of Lift. And we wanted to create something that could be installed in groups.


And as usual, we want to make our products flexible, so they can be customized and accessorized. Of course, it’s available in your favorite color combination. It also has two axes of tilt adjustment, and options for seating, power outlets, lighting, and communication displays. As those items get detailed out, we’ll share them.

And we’d love your ideas! Please comment.