“There’s a huge percentage of people who can’t fit solar on their roofs, “ said Philippe Hartley, CEO of Phat Energy. “That leaves a huge demand for off-the-roof solar.”
Phatport, which builds solar shades for carports, patios, awnings, bus stops and other nontraditional applications, got its start five years ago.
“The big challenge for solar off the roof is designing it to be seen from below,” Hartley stated. “Everything about the bottom of traditional solar panels is designed to be hidden.”
Phat Energy set out to change that and to make the bottom side of a domestic solar energy panel aesthetically pleasing - without adding material cost and diminishing the beauty of the panels by completely covering the bottom.
“People are surprised sometimes when they see this; when they see how aesthetically pleasing the bottom of a solar panel can be,” he added. "The solar panels’ patterns allow diffused natural light to shine through a dynamic and beautiful ceiling."
Hartley and his team found solar panels that looked good from below and then designed a framing system that hides the wiring and electrical work of the panels and inverters.
“There are three reasons people give for not going solar,” Hartley explained. “It’s too expensive, too ugly and they don’t have the roof space. We have eliminated two of those three issues.”
That, combined with dramatic price drops in the cost of solar panels over the last year and a half, have given Phatport reason to celebrate. One of the company's biggest issues now is shipping and setup.
Because the solar structures - which Hartley says act as personal energy plants - are constructed with steal, they’re not easy to ship. Phat Energy is based in Southern California and currently only sells its solar structure within the state.
In order to keep up with growing demand, Phat Energy is looking at building a network of manufacturers in other parts of the country that can build the systems and ship them locally.
Hartley stated that those plans are just in their infancy, but he also added he's hopeful he will be able to make announcements about growth in the near future.