Weeks after launching a new endeavor to sell thin-triple and thin-quad insulating glass units to door and window manufacturers, Alpen High-Performance Products officials have announced $18 million in funding to fuel its new project.

Alpen CEO Andrew Zech says the capital influx will bolster production of its AlpenGlass brand of thin-glass IGUs “by 20-fold.”

“We will go from manufacturing 100 to 150 [thin-glass] IGUs per day in Colorado to over 1,200,” he says. “We will also add capacity for another 1,200 per day in Pennsylvania.”

DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited Alpen High-Performance Products to discuss the grant and promote sustainable glass initiatives. Photo: Alpen.

A new $5.9 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) was awarded to the company as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Recovery Act (BIL/IRA). The grant helped to “catalyze” an additional $12.1 million in private capital funds, says Zech.

“In many or most window fabrication operations, the manufacturing of [insulating] glass is the bottleneck,” he adds. “This allows us to remove that as a bottleneck for our own operation, as well as for other companies.”

In addition to upscaling the production of thin-glass IGUs, Alpen plans to fund improvements to its window and door products.

“We’re also going to be investing in our window systems—our fiberglass and our UPVC window lines,” says Zech. “We want to really build on that DNA and decrease costs while increasing throughput and quality … we think that the path to 30% reduction in building emissions is through highly insulating frame materials that are similar to what we’re using today, high-performance hardware systems that allow for a phenomenal air seal and compression … and thin-triple and quad technologies.”

According to the White House, the BIL/IRA was established to address the “existential threat of the climate crisis and set forth a new era of American innovation and ingenuity to lower consumer costs and drive the global clean energy economy forward.”

“I think that the Department of Energy, writers of energy code and anyone who cares about buildings and decarbonization is realizing more and more that envelope matters—windows, specifically, matter,” says Zech. “We really feel like we’re onto something with our thin-triple and thin-quad IGUs and making that the cornerstone of our work.”

Zech adds that it was vital for Alpen to get DOE funding and support.

“It was strategically important for us to be able to go out and have an organization as devoted to energy-efficient technology as the Department of Energy to recognize what we were trying to do here,” he says. “Both the promise of advanced windows for the nation’s energy efficiency and the magnitude of that challenge and solution—to validate that we are a group they want to invest in to get the job done. And then equally as exciting is the private sector side of things.”

Alpen’s ability to scale its thin-glass window technologies will also help it create hundreds of new jobs in communities impacted by coal plant and mine closures, another funding requirement. After spotting the opportunity for DOE funding in mid-2023, Zech says Alpen noticed that its Colorado facility and a potential Pennsylvania facility were in communities impacted by coal plant closures.

After applying for the award, Zech says Alpen learned that it had been selected for the final approval steps around Thanksgiving 2023.

“When we went out and started talking with investors, there was a lot of momentum behind us,” he says. “Once we described thin-triple technology and the challenges presented to window manufacturers by advancing code standards and Energy Star standards, light bulbs went off.”

Zech says company enhancements are on the radar, including expanding closer to where demand is the strongest, such as on the East and West Coast.

Windows “cover 8% of the surface area of a building,” he says. “And they’re responsible for 45% of the energy loss.”

The company is banking on a major upsell for thin-glass IGUs and other technologies at that rate.

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