May 24, 2019

Pvilion: From Solar-Powered Charging Stations to Solar-Powered Clothing

Pvilion is a firm that specializes in laminating photovoltaics to flexible materials like fabric, stainless steel, and composites to create lightweight solar products that produce power. The types of products they produce range from solar-powered charging stations to solar-powered curtains, and everything in-between. I caught up with Co-Founder and CEO Colin Touhey to gain insight into the company's history as well as its current happenings.

To start, tell me a bit about your background.

Colin Touhey Pvilion
Pvilion Co-Founder and CEO Colin Touhey.

I am an electrical engineer specializing in renewable energy technology. I've worked in wind, solar, and ocean energy, receiving grants from NASA and NYSERDA among others. I am certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) as a solar installer.

As for the other founders, Todd Dalland, Pvilion’s Co-Founder and President, is a pioneering designer and inventor in the field of lightweight structures and integrated flexible photovoltaics. He holds numerous patents, was elevated to Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects in 1996, and is a LEED Green Associate.  Dalland was the 2011 recipient of the Bruce Wodetzki Award. Earlier start-ups include FTL Solar (2006) and FTL Design Engineering Studio (1977.)

Robert Lerner, AIA, Pvilion’s Co-Founder and Vice President, joined FTL Design Engineering Studio in 1996 and has successfully led new technology development programs for NASA, the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Airforce all in the area of lightweight deployable structures. He has been an industry leader in developing new applications for thin film flexible photovoltaics. He is an award-winning designer and inventor, and is a licensed architect in New York State.

How did Pvilion come to be? What was the aha moment?

Pvilion was started by bringing a technology we had developed with the DoD into the commercial market. The aha moment was when we realized that there was one specific market that made sense for us to launch: architecture. Architects are willing to pay for a premium product, care about the messaging of sustainability, like to try new products, and often need shade, shelter, and electricity. 

For those who don't know, what is Pvilion?

We are a turnkey design/build firm that specializes in laminating photovoltaics to flexible materials like fabric, stainless steel, and composites to create lightweight solar products that produce power.

How does your solar fabric technology work?

Our lightweight, flexible designs harness the sun's energy, which can be stored in either a battery system or fed back directly into the electrical grid.

How has the company evolved over time?

Our DNA goes back to our expertise in tensile structure design and our work with the Department of Defense designing deployable solar fabric tents for forward-operating bases. From there, Pvilion's founders decided they wanted to move from consulting for others to providing turn-key services directly to the end-users. Pvilion was started in 2011 to design, engineer, fabricate and install their solar designs.

What's next for Pvilion?

Large scale manufacturing of our solar fabric products, both in the architectural and consumer product goods markets. Someday soon, you could walk into your local sporting goods store or Walmart and buy a solar fabric tent by Pvilion.

Alexander Culafi is Editor and Producer at VentureFizz. He also edits and produces The VentureFizz Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @culafia.