Every building in Toronto could some day operate as it’s own powerplant if the founders of Mitrex, a solar-cladding business, get their way. The company’s solar-integrated products are designed to provide a unique way for developers to create renewable energy while also cutting costs.
“Mitrex is about changing the way we’re looking at solar, green energies and renewables,” CEO Danial Hadizadeh, told SustainableBiz.
Cladding – the outside skin of a building – provides thermal insulation and weather resistance, and oftentimes is designed to improve the aesthetics of a building or tower.
The Toronto-based company created products that not only retain the same aesthetic as their non-energy-producing counterparts, but also allow a typical 30-storey building to generate enough solar to power 48 homes for a year – the carbon equivalent of taking 61 cars off the road. The company’s patented photovoltaic technology converts the exterior of a building into a vertical micro-power plant.
According to Mitrex, each square foot of its cells produce 22W of electricity, which becomes 15W if installed on a vertical angle. If there were 1,000 hours of sunlight in a year, then each square foot would produced 150,000 Wh or 15kWh.
“Sustainable green energy microgrid”
“It’s all about creating a sustainable green energy microgrid at a scale that it could become one of the largest energy companies in the world,” Hadizadeh said.
The company is working with 50 projects since launching in December 2020. This comes as no surprise to Hadizadeh, who is no stranger to the construction business. He’s also been the CEO of Cladify, a Toronto-based cladding solutions company, since 2005.
In 2016, he took his experience and expertise with cladding and began working on a solar product before launching Mitrex. Hadizadeh said he was inspired to head down the green energy path because he desperately wants to create change, and knew he could do so in an environmentally sound way.
“It’s up to every single one of us to do our part, you cannot just wait for other companies, the government to do something. I want to look back on my life and know that I gave it my all to provide a solution to help the planet,” he said.
While solar cladding has been around for 50 years, Hadizadeh said previous iterations had limitations based on size, aesthetics and the reliability of the energy source. With Mitrex, he believes all three problems have been solved.
“Solar cladding of 2018 was like electric cars of the year 2000. They are there, they exist, but they are not realistically solving any problem,” he said.
Hadizadeh says electric cars such as the EV1s created by General Motors were similar to the products of today but weren’t attractive to the eye. When Tesla and others came along creating electric vehicles with more commercial appeal, people were more inclined to buy.
Mitrex designed to look good
He said the people purchasing his products are often architects and developers, both groups which tend to buy items fitting their particular aesthetics.
“The look is very important to architects, developers, owners, and everyone involved in the building. So, we have to make sure our products are indistinguishable,” he said.
Popular cladding materials these days include precast concrete, stucco, aluminum and brick. These looks couldn’t be copied by traditional solar-cladding, he said, but can be replicated by Mitrex. Through research and development, Mitrex can adapt the product to almost any pattern or colour.
The Mitrex solar cladding is constructed of lightweight aluminum and is durable like precast concrete. It has a layer of customizable facing materials to allow it to conform to any material in the world, the company says.
“We can camouflage the solar cells into the building without compromising on the energy, and keeping the same aesthetic or advancing it,” he said.
One of the other hurdles facing solar cladding has been that it can require up to four months to prepare. Hadizadeh said Mitrex will soon be able to get the material ready in a matter of days, due to the integration of artificial intelligence into its warehouse and manufacturing systems.
Prospective clients can reserve production for Mitrex built-in solar cladding for upcoming and current projects on the company website. They are connected to the sales team who assess the desired outcomes for the project. Right now, people inquiring and connecting with Mitrex range from architects, engineers, developers and building owners that are interested in utilizing the cladding system.
“We are building products that have built-in solar, so the cost of manufacturing, transportation, installation, keeps the cost low,” said Hadizadeh. “We want to be able to turn around one high-rise building within two days … everything is done through AI, we want to be like Amazon with our turnaround.”
Two payment options for builders, owners
Mitrex also installs its own cladding. It also includes a 30-year warranty; Mitrex says at the end of 30 years the cladding should still be producing at least 85 per cent of the energy it produced when it was installed.
Building owners and developers have two options to pay for the technology. They can purchase just the cladding up front, and then purchase the solar energy from Mitrex. The second avenue is a direct purchase agreement to own the entire product, including the solar energy which is produced.
Hadizadeh said the break-even period is seven to eight years, and estimated that over 30 years the profit margin could be in the 300 per cent range.
Mitrex also offers SolaRail, a glass balcony railing which produces solar energy. Also on the business-to-business side is a solar roof product.
For retail consumers the firm offers a solar siding which installs on the side of any home. Hadizadeh added his company is also working with a major Toronto window manufacturer to embed the technology into glass.
“Our goal is anything outside that the sun can shine on, let’s make it solar,” he said.