Lowell, Massachusetts [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] The California Energy Commission (CEC) is earmarking funds from its Energy Innovations Small Grant Program for the Massachusetts-based solar photovoltaic (PV) company Konarka. The grant will be used to accelerate Konarka’s effort to bring aesthetically integrated plastic PV to the roofing market.Over the next 12 months, Konarka will apply this grant to examining the potential for coating patterned power plastic roofing materials that mimic the appearance of traditional roofing products. Aesthetics and cost have been key hurdles in increasing market penetration for renewable photovoltaic power in the residential roofing market, but Konarka’s materials will look like a conventional roof. They will include embedded renewable energy generation functionality, rather than require consumers to purchase and install separate aftermarket solar panels as is typically done now. Konarka believes these roofing materials will cost less, blend with the aesthetics of the building and help consumers avoid violating their roofs’ warranties when going green. “Konarka is trying to change the way solar technologies are perceived both in terms of their image and application,” said Daniel McGahn, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Konarka. “It’s always been easy to spot a solar house – the big, bulky, rigid glass panels are so conspicuous. With this grant, what we’re trying to do is provide the same functionality, but with the appearance of everyday roofing material. It will be lightweight, flexible and seamlessly incorporated with colors, patterns or images. You might not be able to see the solar component, but you’ll reap the benefits.” The Energy Innovations Small Grant Program is part of the CEC’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program, which awards up to $62 million annually to support energy research, development and demonstration projects that will help improve the quality of life in California by bringing environmentally safe, affordable and reliable energy services and products to the marketplace. The Small Grant program enables small businesses, non-profits, individuals and academic institutions to conduct research that establishes the feasibility of new, innovative energy concepts. Konarka’s project qualifies for the grant under the renewable energy technologies program area of PIER, addresses a California energy problem and provide a potential benefit to California electric ratepayers, such as reducing the cost of producing electricity, saving energy and improving the environment.