New product will provide energy without additional solar panels or connecting to the electricity grid.
At Fortune’s Brainstorm Green conference, NRG Energy CEO David Crane unveiled a new product that provides shade and solar energy. The Solar Canopy will launch by the end of the year, according to NRG, and be available in four sizes and five different finishes to fit in with design styles in both residential and commercial environments.
The canopy units will supplement the power that customers’ homes or businesses get from the grid and can be set up to operate as replacement power if a storm or other event knocks out electricity. In fact, Hurricane Sandy provided at least some of the impetus for the project. Thousands in New Jersey were left without power following the storm—even those with solar panels, which cannot operate without a functioning electrical grid.
“We said, ‘We need solar, we need it distributed, and we need it to be wired so that it will work even when the grid is down,’” Crane explains.
NRG’s solar canopies will be installed so that under normal circumstances the power generated by the panels will be fed into the owner’s home or business. If the owner’s needs are met, the system will try to sell power back to the grid. If the grid goes down, an inverter will use power generated from the solar panels and stored in batteries.
The mini is expected to generate 2.4 kilowatts of energy, or enough to offset about one-third of total energy usage for the average house. The large commercial model—which could, for instance, be set up outside a convenience store—will generate almost three times as much power.
The Solar Canopy units will be manufactured by Sunora Energy Solutions, Phoenix, Ariz., a company that’s 50 percent-owned by NRG. Pricing has yet to be finalized.