The U.S. Department of Energy just backed this new automated solar energy system developed by a tiny Ohio tech startup with $1 million grant | Tech News

Solar panels are everywhere. Unless you are a solar panel installer, most people don’t really think about what it takes to mount solar panels on the rooftops. Solar racking system (also called photovoltaic mounting system), is used to safely fix solar panels to various surfaces such as roofs, building facades, or the ground. The system is designed to easily be retrofitted to existing rooftops and structures. The problem is, the current solar racking systems are inefficient and expensive to install.

Enter Acme Express, a tiny Cleveland, Ohio-based startup that just developed a new solar racking system that will change the way solar panels are installed throughout the industry. Founded by experimental elementary particle physicist, Acme Express has just developed Roll-A-Rack, a new patent-pending solar-panel racking system that the company says, will reduce racking and installation costs of traditional systems by 33 percent.

How it works

Similar to rain gutters, which are formed and cut on demand, roll-form machines will produce custom solar racking on site and on demand. The single-component Roll-A-Rack is significantly simpler than today’s multicomponent racking systems, which require pre-ordering, shipping, inventory and assembly.

Today, Acme Express announced it has been awarded a $1-million Small Business Innovation Research grant funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. The grant will enable Acme to research and further test and refine Roll-A-Rack. Additional research includes efficiency refinements, high-wind pressure testing and proof of an anticipated 25-year service life.

This will change the way solar panels are installed throughout the industry, making solar energy far more accessible and affordable,” said Don Scipione, president of Acme Express. “Furthermore, this project harnesses a wide range of community resources and Cleveland’s rich engineering and manufacturing expertise.”

Research backing

NASA’s Glenn Research Center is advising on wind uplift forces. Ohio Aerospace Institute is supporting product commercialization. BT Solar, a local solar installation company, will provide technical assistance and end-user feedback. MAGNET, a nonprofit manufacturing consultancy, is validating the mechanical design and advising on strategic business development. SDLE Research Center at Case Western Reserve University will perform accelerated weather testing. The New Tech Machinery division of Mazzella Companies will build the roll-forming machines, and Sheffield Metals International, also a division of Mazzella, will provide raw materials.

The technology is being tested in Cleveland’s MidTown neighborhood, with support from real estate developers J&M Real Estate Advisors, Hemingway Development and Cumberland Development. Additional testing will be performed at Ohio Aerospace Institute, Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center in Warren, Ohio, and the City of Cleveland Crown Water Plant. The Greater Cleveland Partnership is helping to identify other test sites throughout the country.

Roll-A-Rack is expected to become commercially available by the end of 2020. The company is currently working with solar installers interested in evaluating cost-saving opportunities. For more information visit

Founded by Don Scipione, an experimental elementary particle physicist, Acme Express is a solar tech startup company that develops applications for the transportation, finance, education and healthcare industries. Don has been awarded multiple innovation grants from Ohio Third Frontier, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Research Resources, National Library of Medicine, and U.S. Department of Energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more at



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