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Sunflower solar concentrator deemed safe for rooftops

A concentrating solar photovoltaic system from Energy Innovations is the first to receive certification from Underwriters Laboratories.

The Sunflower rooftop system from Energy Innovations became the first solar photovoltaic concentrator to receive Underwriters Laboratories certification Monday.

The product can therefore qualify for many state solar rebates and for installations on commercial rooftops. With that nod, Energy Innovations hopes to raise as much as $20 million for increased production and to support installations for 2009.

"The UL Mark is one of the most recognized symbols of safety in the world and to say we're thrilled to have our work validated by such an independent and reputable institution would be an understatement," said CEO Bill Gross, in a statement.

The Sunflower's Fresnel lens concentrates sunlight more than 1,000 times, enabling cheaper electricity than traditional photovoltaics, according to its maker. The self-powered, 200-watt system features trackers that shift with the sun's location, as well as a controller and communications system. The low-slung Sunflower is built to withstand winds, and it doesn't need to penetrate a rooftop for installation.

The Energy Innovations Sunflower rooftop solar photovoltaic concentrator
This solar photovoltaic concentrator is safe for rooftops, according to approval from Underwriters Laboratories. Energy Innovations

The Pasadena, Calif.-based Energy Innovations is a spinoff of start-up incubator Idealab.

Google's headquarters use a rooftop solar system from EI Solutions, part of Energy Innovations.

Underwriters Laboratories, bracing for a dramatic growth in applications from green-tech companies, opened a photovoltaic testing facility in San Jose, Calif., in July. Clean-tech professionals have praised the potential for the 20,000-square-foot plant to accelerate the process of bringing solar equipment to market.

The Web site of Underwriters Laboratories lists 671 approved photovoltaic products, including modules, panels, chargers, and power units. The most current number, unavailable at press time, is considerably higher, said Evelyn Butler, who manages the renewable energy sector for Underwriters Laboratories.