As more and more eco-minded homeowners consider ways to tap into renewable clean energy sources, on-site residential production gains appeal. Many choose to add solar arrays to their roofs; others opt for ground-mounted systems. But sometimes house orientation, roof penetrations like dormers and chimneys, tree canopy coverage, or building restrictions—as in the case of historic districts—mean subpar solar capture. Even if there is room on the property and orientation is optimal, ground mounts are often viewed as eyesores. Are there other options? Yes. Consider the timber-framed solar canopy.
SunCommon—a B Corp–certified company offering solar and other clean-energy solutions throughout Vermont and New York’s Hudson Valley region—debuted its timber-framed solar canopy in 2017. Solar canopies, which are structures topped with solar panels, can be used as carports (and EV-charging stations), patio coverings, woodsheds, and places to house large equipment and/or gardening tools and supplies, among other potential uses, all while generating energy. SunCommon has partnered with New Energy Works, an employee-owned timber-frame and design company based in New York and Oregon, to deliver timber-framed canopies in one complete energy-producing package. And the concept is catching on.
A multifaceted solution
SunCommon’s mission is to make residential energy generation accessible to more people. The company’s solar canopies can be the answer when a roof is disadvantageous to meeting energy demands, and the timber framing elevates the aesthetics of a conventional ground-mounted system. (The first iteration of the framing kit used whole timbers from WholeTrees Structures. Though beautiful, they were too niche, labor-intensive, and cost-prohibitive for customers.) Among the benefits of partnering with New Energy Works is that timber framing lends itself to production-style manufacturing, which is how these kits are produced—using computer numerical-controlled (CNC) machining with saws and routers.
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