Weeks after launching a new endeavor to sell thin-triple and thin-quad insulating glass units to other door and window manufacturers, officials for Alpen High Performance Products (Alpen) have announced $18 million in funding to fuel its new project. The influx of capital will be used to bolster production of its AlpenGlass brand of thin-glass IGUs “by 20-fold,” Alpen CEO Andrew Zech tells [DWM]. “We will go from manufacturing 100 to 150 [thin-glass] IGUs per day in Colorado to over 1,200,” Zech says. “We will also add capacity for another 1,200 per day in Pennsylvania.”

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, Zech tells [DWM], helping to meet one of DOE’s requirements.

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

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

“We’re also going to be investing in our window systems—our fiberglass and our UPVC window lines,” he says. “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.”

Jennifer M. Granholm, Secretary of U.S. Department of Energy, during a recent visit to Alpen High Performance Products.
Photo: Alpen High Performance Products

“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,” Zech says. “We really feel like we’re onto something with our thin-triple and thin-quad IGUs and making that the cornerstone of what we do. But step number two was cash to fund the dream. It was strategically important for us to be able to go out and have an organization that is as devoted to energy efficient technology as the Department of Energy to recognize what we were trying to do here … 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 that 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 the company to create hundreds of new jobs in communities impacted by coal plant and coal mine closures—another requirement for funding.

After spotting the opportunity for DOE funding in mid-2023, “We realized that both our Colorado facility, and then also a potential Pennsylvania facility, were in communities that were impacted by coal plant closures,” Zech says. “It just started to check some of the different boxes on their requirements and we thought, ‘Well, if not us, who?’ So, we decided to apply for the award.”

Sometime around Thanksgiving 2023 the company learned it had been selected for final approval steps.

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

As for upcoming enhancements, “We honestly believe that’s just the beginning,” he says. “We plan to expand and continue co-locating operations, near strong sources of demand as we go. But this will give us an immediate East Coast and West Coast presence at a scale that we’ve never seen before.”

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

At that rate, the company is banking on a major upsell for thin-glass IGUs and other technologies.

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