ENVISION hot on ARC solar heating

NOVEMBER 14, 2009

EnVision hot on ARC solar heating

From left, Kaz Szymocha, senior research officer with the Alberta Research Council and Garth Von Hagen, CFO of ENVISION, with a direct-heat-storage solar panel system. It heats and cools buildings using the heat of the sun without using pumps or electricity. ENVISION is marketing the technology for ARC.

Photograph by: Candace Elliott, The Journal, Edmonton Journal

The warmth of the sun could soon be helping keep the cold out of buildings as ENVISION Global Inc. moves forward with patented technology developed at the Alberta Research Council.

The company is marketing the solar wall panel technology that uses a special chemical to release heat as it moves from a solid to a liquid and back again.

The elegance of the process is it has no mechanical systems, such as pumps and pipes, and uses no electricity, ENVISION chief financial officer Garth Von Hagen says.

"It uses heat, not light like photovoltaic systems, so doesn't have to be on the roof or at a certain angle. It can be integrated into one or more vertical walls."

The sun's energy is captured by the external wall panel and stored in special cells. As the outside temperature drops this energy is released, which creates a higher-temperature zone next to the wall surface.

It cuts energy transmission through the wall, which reduces costs by about 50 per cent, depending on the application, Von Hagen says.

It can also reduce cooling costs in hot weather, and is easily retrofitted to existing buildings.

ARC chose privately held ENVISION as its marketing partner because of its experience with curtain walls, energy-efficient transparent walls used in commercial and highrise residential buildings, Von Hagen says.

"They want it commercialized globally, and knew that was our focus."

ENVISION, launched by a group of 50 Edmonton investors six years ago, currently is providing the curtain walls for the 48-story Hotel Georgia highrise condo and office development in downtown Vancouver through its China manufacturing joint venture [with Manufacturing Partner: Shanghai Mei Te Curtain Wall System Co., Ltd.].

ENVISION management includes managing director Robert Grandbois, a co-founder of Visionwall Corp. who left that company six years ago, and Exel Systems owner Jeff Elkow as chairman.

Ironically, the company has the rights for the new wall panel technology everywhere except China, because similar technology is in the development stage there.

Von Hagen doesn't see that as a negative. "Everyone talks about China but it's not an easy market to get into. We already have the joint venture there and can always work with them later."

Read story by David Finlayson, The Edmonton Journal