BRITE Energy Innovators

These incredible solar ‘hammocks’ will give you free energy while protecting your garden

Solar Panel close up

This brilliant product can turn backyard landscapes into powerhouses.

Space-age science is delivering a solar energy solution here on Earth — and it’s coming in the form of technology that NASA says “can be hung over an area as easily as a hammock.”

But the sun-catching canopy from Ohio-based Skysun, founded in 2012, is certainly not a layabout invention. 

In fact, it is full of energy. 

That’s because the innovation harnesses sunbeams, providing renewable power while also creating shade and protection for gardens and people underneath. It’s all the result of a NASA program that works with other agencies, utilizing advanced expertise to propel business ideas. Jim Clair leveraged the opportunity in 2016 to grow Skysun.

Clair and the experts worked through the schematics needed to make sure the suspended solar systems can hold up to wind and other stressors. Steel-braided wire, designed with NASA’s help, can withstand gusts, for example. 

“We could’ve just given him the answer, but instead we gave him a spreadsheet program that works on all his installations,” Paul Bartolotta, a now-retired NASA project manager, said in a Spinoff report. Spinoff profiles terrestrial projects that benefit from the agency’s expertise. 

The contraptions can be part of pergolas and other landscaping features. The solar panels can cover up to 400 square feet, per the company. It’s a brilliant product that can turn backyard landscapes into powerhouses. They can also be installed with the ability to track the sun for optimal energy production while protecting shade-loving gardens below. 

The company said the product is an alternative to rooftop systems that attach to homes at half the price of typical installations. The concept is perfect for leased or rental properties where permanent arrays can’t be added. 

Skysun notes that tax credits can provide a 26% savings. Government investment through the Inflation Reduction Act should also be available to help offset the costs of solar setups. 

On average, folks who install solar panels will save an estimated $3,600 in 10 years, and an estimated 85,000 pounds of air pollution from dirty energy sources will be reduced in that time. 

Skysun also touts planet-saving perks on its website. A typical solar pergola should last more than 25 years, reducing air pollution equal to what is made by 15 vehicles annually, to burning more than 75,000 pounds of coal, or to the same amount of dirty air that’s captured and stored by more than 83 acres of forest, all per the company. 

Since air pollution is associated with dementia, cancer, and other health risks, the canopies can have a wide benefit range. And aesthetics haven’t been forgotten. Skysun’s products can power lights, fountains, aerators, fans, and vents. 

The space agency said in its report that Clair intends to work on different types of solar panels to include in future setups, including a system that focuses sunbeams onto a receiver. It is heated to make steam, which in turn powers a turbine. It’s similar to a concept already developed on a much larger scale in China. 

For now, it seems the sky and sun are the limit for Clair’s Cleveland-area company and for our renewable energy future

“We’re honored to become a NASA Spinoff Company!” he posted on LinkedIn.

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