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The Solar Innovation Series – BrightPhase Energy, Inc.

Point Roberts, South Salem, New York - March 31, 2009 - announces the first of the new solar innovation series at "Renewable and Solar Energy Perspectives" with J. Peter Lynch.
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"A unique 3 for 1 product – electricity, heat and diffuse daylight all in one unit"

Over the 30+ years that I have followed the renewable energy industry, I have literally seen hundreds of companies come and go. While I generally follow public companies, I review business plans regularly for startup renewable energy and solar technology companies. One company I recently have been following and have actually I mentioned in a previous column is BrightPhase Energy (BP) –

BP has developed a unique proprietary and patented technology "Photensity" that combines onsite energy generation and energy efficiency in a single product which is designed specifically for mounting on commercial and institutional buildings roofs–both existing and new construction. The system generates both electricity and heat via a low Photovoltaic (PV) concentration scheme and has an additional daylighting feature which adds natural diffuse lighting to the building thereby decreasing the buildings need for interior lighting. See picture below of the photensity unit viewed from above.

Photensity Pre-Production Module

Unlike the PV industry which sells on a module by module basis, BrightPhase sells the product as a complete system that includes the electric and thermal balance of systems, an elaborate monitoring system and an installation kit. All of the system components are pre-integrated at the factory and includes the building systems plug-ins for each energy stream.

See diagram below that represents how all 3 technologies are integrated together as one product on the roof of a large commercial building.

The Photensity System with Building Plug-ins

Patented Proprietary Design

The concentrator mechanism is a blind slat design; similar to a venetian blind which concentrates sunlight (single axis tracking) via a highly mirrored finish on the front side onto a narrow row of solar cells on the leading backside of the next slat up. Waste heat (160° to 200° F) is captured via a simple heat exchange system for use in the buildings space heating, hot water and heat to cooling systems and the slat design lets diffuse (not direct) light through into the building to cut down on lighting bills.

I have seen many investment solicitations for solar cogeneration systems in the market (electricity and heat) that have strong value at first glance. But further due diligence reveals that the market for using the heat is small and most of these companies have apparatus that can't easily be mounted on a building due to large size and excessive weight.

BrightPhase's founder and CTO Scott Frazier (former NASA rocket engineer) appears to have developed innovative and clever solutions for both these problems:

  1. His blind slat design allows for natural diffuse light to enter the building when installed as skylight. This is the energy efficiency component. It provides a significant decrease of energy required for interior lighting by providing "negawatts" of benefit (watts otherwise required to power lighting fixtures). This enables an enormous increase in the company's addressable market as it adds the flexibility to be installed on a variety of buildings with or without heat loads.
  2. The product was designed specifically for low profile mounting on buildings (20,000 ft2 or larger). The slats are less than 7 inches in width making it relatively easy to retrofit their standard module on existing building or roof integrated in new construction. The company also has plans to introduce a wall mounted product in the future.

Superior Daylighting Solution

At first, I was very skeptical that anyone would "pay for" the potential energy saving of daylighting. But after talking to a number of investment banker associates and having co-founder and EVP of Business Development Dave Buemi walk me through the technology I realized that daylighting had a very significant economic benefit for any large commercial building.

"Daylighting is the most underutilized renewable energy source available and it's the simplest and lowest cost method to reduce energy use in a building. The trick is to balance the natural light benefits with the negative side effects of excessive heat buildup inside the building and ultraviolet deterioration of the contents." - BrightPhase EVP Dave Buemi

Standard skylight fixtures achieve this balance by applying a white frosted coating. This allows natural diffuse light when it is bright and sunny but provides no benefit on marginally cloudy days. According to the company the Photensity slats capture all the direct sunlight in the slats to create energy while natural light floods in between - BOTH in sunny or cloudy conditions. Impressively, the product provides consistent natural light 8 hours a day allowing for substantially more energy savings than a standard skylight. The consistent light allows for less complex automated lighting controls commonly found in large buildings. (Note: BrightPhase package includes a software/switch mechanism which integrates with most leading automated lighting control systems.)

Another interesting advantage which is totally unique to BrightPhase is the ability to see the outside blue sky when viewing the product from inside the building – see picture below showing the view a customer would see from inside the building.

Photensity Enables Blue Sky Viewing from Inside the Building

As a retailer I would be very excited about this product both for the financial gains from energy reduction and the aesthetics of customers being able to see blue sky and the clean energy system "working" while they are shopping.

Industry Leading Financial Returns - 3X standard PV Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

Because the energy density is so high as result of the combination of electricity, thermal generation and daylighting, the economics for the Photensity system is far superior to the average IRR of a standard PV installation in the same application – IRR's of 25% - 50% or more depending on the building loads and location, this compares very well to the standard 10% IRR for PV. Below is an example, from company literature, of how these two systems would compare on a big box retailer in San Diego, CA.

This is a product that has the potential to produce 50% annual energy savings for many building types based upon the test site operational history and modeling which the company has validated with DOE’s eQuest large building energy modeling tool.

While the products performance economics are clearly superior, the cost story is also significant when it comes to manufacturing capital needed (CapEx). Photensity is an integration of standard off the shelf technologies and raw materials that have been proven for years. It uses standard monocrystalline PV cells, standard packaging components and commonly available metal and glass materials. There is no high cost material science risk. The manufacturing uses commonly found production equipment and tooling found in the solar and component manufacturing industries. As a result, according to the company, the CapEx for a manufacturing plant is many fold lower (significantly < .50 watt equivalent) than the current generation of PV manufacturing plants.

Current Company Status

The company is currently in the midst of closing a Series A funding round. They have lined up a number of initial commercial customers and are working with a variety of large regional and multinational ESCOs (Energy Services Company’s) that they will utilize (for construction and financing) to roll out their first commercial projects in the summer or fall of 2009.

If there ever was a poster company for President Obama's clean energy initiatives, BrightPhase would certainly be a company that would fit the bill. With its low cost, commercial roll out in 2009 (read, new jobs now), rapid payback for the system owner and, unique ability to eliminate 2X more CO2 emissions per installed cost spent than conventional renewable energy products for buildings. It certainly fits our criteria for companies and/or ideas and technologies that will make the breakthroughs and push the envelope on new thinking that will help lead us to a bright sustainable solar future. In addition, it is a product that is here and now, and not in a laboratory being developed.

If you have further questions about the company or want more details please feel free to contact me via e-mail or the company for additional information or details.

Mr. Lynch has worked, for 31 years as an independent analyst and investor in small emerging technology companies. He has been actively involved in following developments in the renewable energy sector since 1977 and is regarded as an expert in this field. He was the contributing editor for the past 17 years to the Photovoltaic Insider Report, the leading publication in Photovoltaics industry that was directed at industrial subscribers, such as major energy companies, utilities and governments around the world. He can be reached via e-mail at: or at his new website:

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