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Bay Area solar entrepreneur works to woo architects, builders

Louis Hansen, The Mercury News on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: Have you seen a growing market for architectural solar products?

A: It's a very small market. The reason is, there just aren't many good solutions out there. Secondly, it takes time. (The construction industry) is a conservative industry. It's complex.

You can go to the building product suppliers, but then they're not the ones making the decision. They have to convince the architects. The architects can spec it in, but then, there's the engineering construction firm that has to approve it, because they're the ones that are going to be wiring everything and be liable. And then finally the building owner and developer has to OK it from the cost standpoint. It's a complex ecosystem.

The traditional way to do solar in buildings, if you don't do what we're doing, is you have these square cells and you space them out and you have a checkerboard pattern.

(But with our products) even though you have 50 percent coverage of cells, you can see through it. I've had leading architects who have been looking through it and asking, "Where is the solar panel?"

Q: One of the biggest, recent announcements in architectural solar cells has been the Tesla solar roof. What does it do for the market?

A: It's definitely a beautiful product. I like it. It shows that you can still be innovative in this business. You can create something desirable in solar.

In many ways, what Tesla and Elon Musk are doing in solar, at least from a marketing standpoint, is exactly what Solaria is doing. The difference is, we're very focused on it. We don't have to make Model 3 cars. We can just focus on solar. We're plowing ahead and scaling up that.

Q: The solar industry faces some political uncertainties. How is the environment for a company the size of Solaria?

A: It's the best of times and the worst of times.

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