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King resident honored by American society for solar innovation

June 18, 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Mark Pavilons
Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, George Westinghouse, Willis Carrier, the steam engine, the Panama Canal and King Township’s John Hollick.
It’s quite an honour to be included in such prestigious company as these people and technological innovations.
SolarWall inventor John Hollick has been honored in an exciting new exhibit curated by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) that features the best inventions, inventors and engineering feats of the past two centuries, including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, George Westinghouse, Willis Carrier, the steam engine and the Panama Canal.
Entitled “Engineering the Everyday and the Extraordinary,” the goal of the exhibit is to “invite people to rediscover the remarkable; the engineers and inventions that have shaped our world as well as the extraordinary breakthroughs that are already setting the stage for the future.”
The 80 inventors and inventions whose stories they chose to highlight represent the best of those categories.
The SolarWall technology and inventor Hollick are featured in the Energy & Power category. The other inventions recognized in this category are the steam engine, the jet engine, the transformer, incandescent light bulbs, the internal combustion engine, Alta Wind Energy Center, the electric generator, and the Itaipu Dam.
Hollick was pleased with the nod of approval, noting while his technology is not mainstream yet, hopes are it will be seen in the same light as energy efficient windows and furnaces, within the coming decade.
The SolarWall technology was a breakthrough invention that created the global solar air heating industry. It was ranked by the U.S. Department of Energy as being in the “top two percent of energy related inventions” because of its unique technical design and efficiency at converting sunlight into usable thermal energy. It remains the only building-integrated clean energy technology – now used in thousands of commercial, industrial and agricultural applications around the world – that effectively addresses the huge amount of energy used for space and process heating.
The SolarWall® technology is now poised for significant growth as solar air heating becomes a mainstream solution to reducing GHG emissions and with new applications for this innovative technology.
Hollick said SolarWall air heating is now in use on thousands of buildings in more than 35 countries heating virtually every type of building from schools, hospitals, warehouses, factories, shopping malls, military facilities, high-rise apartment buildings, chicken barns and other animal confinement buildings. SolarWall is also used around the world to dry foods such as coffee, tea, fruit, nuts, cocoa beans and peppers.
SolarWall, a system that Hollick patented in 1989, is a building integrated all metal solar air heating system, which is a single extra metal skin having thousands of micro perforated openings that attaches to the south wall and connects to fresh air inlets of HVAC equipment common on most buildings. As the fresh air passes through each opening in the metal surface, it picks up the heat boundary layer and raises the air temperature as much as 30 degrees Celsius. Using the wall is actually better than a roof in winter since the wall is more perpendicular to the low sun angle. Snow on the ground will also reflect up to 50% more sunlight and heat. Best of all, it will heat fresh air for decades and without maintenance.
Hollick said he’s proud to have been the force behind creating an entire industry (solar air heating).
He’s enthusiastic about expanding the SolarWall technology so that one day, solar air heating will be as well known as solar PV or solar water heating.
The driving force is different now than 10 or 20 years ago when it was about cost savings.
“Now drivers include climate change, CO2 reduction, clean energy, on site power production, LEED buildings and life style choices. I have several new patents which improve the heat gain and applications for SolarWall. The 2-stage SolarWall can heat air up to 50 C over ambient, our SolarDuct system is roof mounted for buildings without a suitable south wall and my most recent patent can cool buildings using a roof mounted perforated heat rejection system.”
Hollick admitted the initial costs are still substantial, but they can be recouped in the long run.
On the policy side, Europe has a mandate for new buildings to produce 20% of their energy from renewables by 2020. Further, the U.S. offers tax credits and the federal government has mandated that such technologies be used on government buildings. Hollick believes Canada must do the same.
One way is with building codes.
“On-site generation of solar must be included in the building codes or by separate laws if we are to achieve climate change goals and reduce our usage of fossil fuels. Using building codes provides governments with an exit strategy from the grants, tax credits and feed in tariff programs that have become common in the renewable energy field. As a bonus, on-site generation can keep a building open during ice storms. Think of it as energy insurance.”
Hollick began in solar in 1975 with a personal interest when he installed a solar hot water system on his in-laws island in Georgian Bay. He also added PV to the island.
In 1985, he introduced solar air heating for industrial buildings with wall integrated collectors which was branded as SolarWall.
During the early 1980s oil and gas prices were rising and solar was sold as a way to reduce heating costs. When fuel costs dropped and incentives stopped in the late 1980s, it became much harder to sell solar.
“I began to focus on cost reduction and improved efficiencies as well as appearance and maintenance. Most solar panels are essentially boxes built in a factory, shipped to a job site and fastened to a building without any regard for appearance. Let’s face it, solar panels mounted on racks or screwed to a roof or walls do not look like part of the building. So how can buildings owners have solar heat, an attractive building and still address the cost and efficiency issues? The answer is to incorporate the panels into the surface of a building. And what are we actually trying to heat in a building – it’s the air around us!”
This air, he explained, must be warm and good quality. Buildings are heated in the cold months when windows are closed.
Through his company, Conserval Engineering, he solved these issues by removing most of the materials in typical solar heating systems.
“We got rid of the storage, the ugly collector boxes, the heat exchangers, the moving parts. The result was  SolarWall.
Hollick noted he also had strong client support especially from Ford Motor Company both in Canada and the U.S., as well as Natural Resources Canada. Factory walls were being covered with our SolarWall panels. Ford solar heated seven of their factories and every Grand Marquis, Crown Vic, Tempo, Windstar van since the late 1980s was built in a solar-heated factory.
“The other important factor is that we were able to make solar attractive with choice of colours which encouraged architects to specify solar heating. Meanwhile, Natural Resources Canada monitored some of my earlier installations and concluded that SolarWall was the most efficient solar heater on the market and at a fraction of the cost of other solar heaters.”
The unique display in New York City will remain in the lobby of the ASME building for the next 15 years.
For more on SolarWall, visit



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