The Rise of Skysun’s Solar Solutions


Harnessing Sunlight from Above: The Rise of Skysun’s Solar Solutions

by Clarence Oxford

Los Angeles CA (SPX) Mar 13, 2024

Drawing inspiration from historical engineering challenges like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster, Skysun LLC, based in Cleveland, Ohio, has pioneered the development of suspended solar panels, overcoming the potential for destructive resonance with NASA’s Glenn Research Center’s assistance. The collaboration began in 2016 when Skysun’s founder, Jim Clair, sought to validate the resilience of his innovative solar panel designs against wind-induced oscillations.

At the core of this initiative was Trevor Jones, a dynamicist from Glenn, who conducted a series of tests at Lorain County Community College. Jones meticulously measured the oscillations resulting from induced vibrations on the prototype’s cables. This data underpinned a bespoke computational model Jones developed, capable of simulating the structural integrity of Clair’s designs under various conditions. The model’s affirmations confirmed that the suspended solar panel systems would remain steadfast in the face of gusty winds.

Currently, Skysun has expanded its portfolio to include a range of solar energy solutions. These span from the Skysun Solar Pollinator, a setup resembling a hammock designed to hover over flora benefiting from dappled sunlight, to comprehensive solar pergolas that dual-serve as sources of renewable energy and providers of shade.

The genesis of Skysun LLC traces back to Jim Clair’s interest in renewable energy investments in 2012, particularly concentrating solar power technology. This interest spurred the foundation of Skysun and the conceptualization of employing suspended cable systems to facilitate mirror adjustments for optimal sunlight concentration. Clair’s venture into this design was motivated by a desire to circumvent the catastrophic outcomes reminiscent of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge by ensuring the stability of his solar installations against potential oscillatory forces.

Skysun’s engagement with NASA’s Adopt-A-City program, a collaborative effort among NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Cuyahoga County’s government, and MAGNET-a local nonprofit-played a crucial role in refining their technology with expert insights. The program’s multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving was instrumental in Skysun’s selection and subsequent technical support, leading to the successful development and implementation of their solar solutions.

Skysun’s innovative approach has not only paved the way for more flexible and adaptable solar energy installations but also exemplified the potential of public-private partnerships in advancing renewable energy technologies. The success of the Solar Pollinator and the upcoming Solar Pergola system, capable of generating up to five kilowatts of power, highlights the practical applications of these technologies in urban and leased spaces, showcasing the critical role of NASA’s expertise in their development.

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