Mitrex Integrated Solar Technology is collaborating with noise barrier manufacturers Durisol Inc. and Silentium Group to create the world’s first solar-powered, sound-absorptive highway noise barrier.
Toronto-based Mitrex manufactures building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) — solar power-generating systems that are built into the building envelope. The company’s latest product is a photovoltaic noise barrier (PVNB).
The Mitrex PVNB panels have a capacity of 22 watts per square foot, or 37.4 with a bi-facial panel. In solar technology, a bi-facial panel is one which, along with the normal capture of solar energy, traps a portion of the sunlight inside the glass, bouncing it around until it is absorbed by the solar cells.
Each kilometre of PVNBs will generate over 1.2 megawatts of electricity. That solar power translates to a negative carbon embodiment of over 1000 kgs of CO2 per square metre.
The biggest selling point for Mitrex is the sound absorption capability of the panels. On ASTM C423 testing — a method for classifying the sound absorption of a material ranging from 0.00 to 1.00 — the panels scored a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) rating of over 0.80. To be considered sound absorptive, barriers must achieve an NRC of at least 0.70.
“This was a major R and D project for us,” said Mitrex CEO Danial Hadizadeh. “We’re producing solar panels every day, but to focus on a sound-absorbing application . . . that is something that has never been done and we wanted to make sure we had a unique approach to the solution.”
Mitrex and MTO
Mitrex, a member of both the Canada Green Building Council and the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, approached the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) about a year ago with the idea for the solar panel highway barriers. After a few months, the MTO introduced Mitrex to the Hamilton-based Durisol and the Brantford, Ont.-based Silentium as a way of integrating the technologies.
“We had the idea of putting solar panels on the highway but we didn’t have a complete understanding of the needs of the market,” Hadizadeh said.
That conversation also touched on the potential for graffiti or general wear on the highway panels. According to Hadizadeh, the PVNB panels are coated in an “anti-graffiti” material — the company’s own intellectual property — that also protects against dirt, mud and the like.
All three companies are working with the MTO to assist in establishing product approval guidelines for this new technology by integrating the panels into existing approved noise wall system designs.
Durisol and Silentium have also begun retrofitting existing noise wall systems throughout North America with the Mitrex panels.
“There are a couple projects in Ontario they’re implementing (the PVNB panels) in, as well as some other areas in Canada,” Hadizadeh said. “There will be other news in the next few weeks where we’ll announce the coming projects.”
The panels are offered in many designs, including a variety of opaque and transparent options.
The PVNB panel future
Hadizadeh and Mitrex hope to implement the PVNB panel technology into other applications, including other areas of buildings and building construction.
“That would be one of those features we think is going to trickle down into the other products that we have, including building material,” Hadizadeh said. “Because the solar panels are lightweight, it opens the door to implementing them in areas that were previously not in use.”
He mentioned ongoing negotiations with a few high-rise developers interested in the panels, as well as companies from New York wanting to apply the panels in bridges.
The highway applications will be based on market needs, or, as Hadizadeh said, as many projects as Durisol and Silentium can integrate the panels into. Mitrex will remain focused on “the manufacturing, R and D and the development of its product.”
In January, Mitrex announced the installation of the largest BIPV-integrated wall in North America at an industrial building in the Toronto neighbourhood of Etobicoke. The wall covers over 7,000 square feet and is expected to produce around 90,000 KWh annually.
In April, SustainableBiz reported Mitrex supplied the Loyola residence at St. Mary’s University in Halifax with the tallest BIPV façade in North America at 6,000 square feet.
“We believe the future is not a centralized grid. It’s more focused on the microgrids, and you will have decentralized energy production globally,” Hadizadeh said at the time.
“We believe that’s going to be a lot better for humanity in terms of generation, preservation and also in reducing the number of conflicts that we have once the energy in general, not just electricity, is decentralized.”