Solar energy to date has largely been focused on buildings – business and residential – and ways in which their inhabitants can reduce carbon footprints via personal responsibility.
But Jeff Flath, owner of eNow, a Warwick-based, solar-technology firm, is bringing solar to the trucking industry in an effort to allow companies to reduce gas emissions while saving money.
“The No. 1 draw was that no one had done it,” Flath said of his decision to bring solar technology to trucking. Second “was the value proposition of offsetting fossil fuel. There’s a lot more value in trying to save money.”
In early April, The Ocean State Clean Cities Coalition at the University of Rhode Island held a stakeholder meeting to showcase Flath’s technology.
Pat Pendergast, a URI graduate student studying for his master’s degree in environmental and natural-resource economics, said the meeting was meant to demonstrate how Flath’s product can reduce the need for trucks to idle and improve fuel efficiency.
“Everyone seemed really excited about it, mainly because there were a lot of concerns with solar-panel technology that have to do with the life cycle of it and the length of time it takes for it to reach a break-even point,” Pendergast said.
Five years ago, Flath was working for The Cooley Group in Pawtucket when he designed and developed, for the company, the first 100 percent solar-covered billboard in Times Square in New York.
When he left Cooley in 2011, he decided to take the idea of using solar power for purposes other than buildings and develop it for the transportation industry.
The challenge was creating a PV panel rigid enough to withstand the environmental hazards large trucks face, including poor road conditions, heat, cold, rain, snow and other weather-related factors.
The system captures energy so that truckers do not have to let their vehicles idle in order to keep their truck refrigerated and to control other operations, including lighting.