Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Dow To Begin Promoting Thin Film Solar Shingles

Solar power is one of the ways that the nation can reduce its dependence on petroleum products, but a problem has always been cost and the ability to retrofit structures to accept the solar systems.

Dow appears to have figured out how to make thin film solar shingles that could be installed by a roofer just as they would asphalt shingles. An electrician would be required to hook up the array to an inverter and the household power, but that's a significantly lower cost than having to bring in a specialized company to install a solar system.

The solar shingles will begin test marketing in 2010.
Dow plans to begin test-marketing the solar shingle in mid-2010, initially targeting new-home construction. Ms. Palmieri said the market could be worth $5 billion by 2015 and noted that 90 percent of homes in the United States use asphalt shingles.

Dow designed the shingles, which will initially be manufactured at the company’s Midland, Mich., facility. Global Solar of Tucson, Ariz., is supplying the thin-film solar cells.

Thin-film has generally not been used for residential systems because of its relatively low efficiency – Global Solar’s cells are 10 percent efficient. That means a larger array is required generate the same of amount of electricity as conventional solar panels.

But Dave Parrillo, the senior research and development director for Dow Solar Solutions, said the solar shingles can offset between 40 percent and 80 percent of a home’s electricity consumption.
I think this has serious potential, although I wonder how it would hold up to repeated impacts caused by falling branches and other tree debris. Another potential issue would be weight, particularly on older homes; if the weight is comparable, then solar could gain wider adoption.

In parts of the country where there is ample sun, this could be a significant source of alternative energy and reduce energy consumption from utility companies. At the same time, as more people convert to such systems, tax revenues from utility taxes and fees will decline, meaning that states will find themselves in a bind to come up with new revenue sources.

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