1/07/2011

The Next Generation of Solar Shingles

Solar energy is one of the oldest forms of alternative energy. Photoelectric cells have been around for about 40 years now. While the technology is relatively old, there have been relatively few developments resulting in a lower production cost: until now. The results of the recent COP16 conference in Cancun, Mexico were a little underwhelming, but there was still exciting news being released.

sunrise
Just a few months back Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of the Dow Chemical Company announced the release the first consumer-grade solar shingle in 2011. Many on Wall Street speculate that the Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles will produce revenues in excess of $5 billion dollars between now and 2015. This release, combined with earlier breakthroughs on the protective films that cover the shingles, brings the dream of sustainable energy closer to the average consumer. The reason this energy option stands out from traditional solar panels, is because Dow’s solar shingle is installed onto a roof and performs much like a typical asphalt shingle. The solar shingle not only performs the usual functions of shingling, but also greatly decreases a home’s energy costs.

solar roof shingles
The transformation of sunlight to electricity is made possible by innovative photovoltaic technology. Dow's shingles will use copper indium gallium diselenide solar modules (CIGS), which are considered second or third generation solar tech, compared to the much less efficient. CIGS is generally most efficient at turning sunlight into electricity. This CIGS technology is brand new and gaining ground quickly in the field of energy efficiency while simultaneously allowing solar power to be generated from thinner material. According to Dow CIGS-based PV cells are incorporated into the product by molding them with a polymer formulation which results in a unique design that has similar aspect, weight, and installation practices as an asphalt shingle and also generates electricity. Electrical circuitry is integrated into each shingle and connected by plug connectors. The shingles have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years.
According to Alternative Energy: A 2009 Report Card, solar energy has grown 1,000 percent since the turn of the century. Yahoo Finance says solar energy will grow an additional 1,500 percent globally by 2020. Andrew Liveris has stressed the importance of the relationship between the economy and the green tech industry for years: a win-win for the unemployed and the environment.

solar roof shingles
The U.S. has extended tax breaks for solar energy under the recent stimulus package. The domestic tax breaks and numerous international subsidies for solar energy put into place by many Europeans nations as well as China exemplifies that the domestic and international demand for solar energy will only increase. Even with domestic and international demand for alternative energy sources like solar energy, Executive Vice President Peribere highlights the importance of consistent support via state legislation and incentives in order for the solar market to expand. The company expresses that a lack of clarity surrounding the country’s political agenda is causing businesses and investors to stay on the sidelines. “Businesses have a lot of money they want to spend on growth. Most of that is being spent overseas — including us.” Stephanie A. Burns, Dow Corning Corp. chairwoman and CEO said an example of the “political uncertainty” is the U.S. government’s research and development R&D tax credit. The tax credit reduces federal tax liabilities, based on the amount a company spent in the development of a new product or to improve existing products “It would be great if that was permanent and we knew it was there,” Burns said. “And we knew we could rely on it and we knew the investments we do make here would have a tax benefit.”

This post was written by Daniel Fielding, a freelance writer who focuses on gadgets and the environment. He is the lead editor for Shades of Green, a Green Technology Blog.

5/18/2009

Solar Roof Shingles Reduce Your Electric Bill

solar roof shingles

Solar power is a renewable resource which can never get exhausted, no matter how much you use it. Using it to full effect can help you save a lot of money. Solar roof shingles are the latest modified form of solar panels which are being used at homes to get the maximum out of sun’s energy. Roof shingles powered by solar energy are still a very new technology to most people, but many are already using them because of their long term benefits.

What are solar roof shingles?

These are basic looking shingles which can generate electricity by converting the sun rays into electrical energy. Solar roof shingles are installed on the roof, tilted towards the direction of the sun. Once you connect them with home appliances, you will notice a drastic reduction of your electricity bills. Each shingle has the ability to produce electricity between 17 to 50 watts. That doesn't sound much but adds up quickly when multiplied by a whole square footage of the roof. Shingles come with special support structures that can withstand wind speeds equal to 80 mph.
The technical name used for solar roof shingles by scientists is Building-Integrated Photovoltaic (BIVP)

How to install solar roof shingles?

Solar roof shingles can be installed faster than solar panels. The initial cost of this technology is estimated around $20,000. Both, front and back side of the roof can be covered with solar shingles because the systems doesn't require direct sunlight but produce electricity as long as there’s daylight, even on cloudy days.

They are installed like asphalt tiles. These are put in layered form on the roof with 5 inches of the shingle exposed to sun. After the installation, wiring is connected to home electrical appliances by electrician or expert in solar energy systems. You can then feed the electricity back into your local power grid or go off grid entirely.

Long Term Benefits of Solar roof shingles

Although these solar roof shingles are expensive initially in long term perspective, they can prove to be the cheapest way to generate electricity.

  • The cost of maintenance and monetizing is very economical.
  • They can be used in very remote places on earth.
  • People living near equator can use it to its full potential as they receive sun’s UV rays all throughout the year.
  • The quantity of power generated by such system is enough to fulfill home needs.
  • They are easily replaceable, flexible and a green way to produce electricity, which is the main reason behind the invention of the technology.

7/21/2008

Solar Power Your Business

Have you wondered what all the "buzz" is about using solar energy to provide power for your home or business? Perhaps you have thought that the technology is too expensive or otherwise not worth the investment. Its time to change that thinking. More and more often, property owners are installing solar panels on the roofs of buildings, to harness energy from the sun to be converted into electricity. Power bills for the buildings on which the panels are installed drop to next to nothing as a result. Each panel costs between $150 and $1,500, depending on the brand, vendor and wattage. Currently, solar cells cost approximately $4.30 per watt. For a 50-watt solar panel, the total cost is about $215. The number and square footage of panels required to power a business is determined by calculating watt-hours of electricity typically used over a 24-hour period. Not surprisingly, the expense of the initial installation is the biggest hurdle.
Sun Edison and MMA Renewables specialize in providing financing and solar power installations for commercial customers. In addition, expect to see more tax incentives for renewable energy sources in the future. Additional information about current incentives and subsidies can be found at The Solar Guide.

In Bend, Oregon, one local newspaper has installed solar panels on the roof of its building. The Source Weekly is located near the downtown center in a historic building. Known as an off-beat, quirky news organization, perhaps it is not surprising that it is also forward-thinking with respect to solar energy. Solar panels installed on the rooftop are proudly visible to passers-by which, is both innovative marketing and good, green sense. If a small business can successfully incorporate solar power into its business model, perhaps its time that larger organizations start to do the same.


Images by Stephanie Hicks (Bend, Oregon - July 11, 2008)

7/20/2008

Solar Powered Big Wheel

Ready for a ride? Go along with the Hippy Gourmet as he interviews Stanford University's award winning professor and inventor Bob Schneeveis. Always up for a bit of fun with renewable energy, Bob shows off his one-of-a-kind solar powered big wheel built for two. The features of this odd solar powered vehicle will surprise you!


7/19/2008

Al Gore Speaks About Carbon-Free Renewable Energy

On July 17, 2008, former United States Vice-President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Al Gore gave a compelling speech at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. about the urgent need to develop renewable energy sources within the next 10 years. He challenged Americans (and their leaders) to be "running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity" in the coming decade. Among other things, Mr. Gore championed the fact that solar, wind and geothermal power is more affordable, while we have to face the reality of the climbing costs of coal and oil. A new advertising campaign, developed by The Alliance for Climate Protection, will encourage supporters of clean energy sources to advocate for new laws and policies that will result in the reduction of global warming. Currently, the United States is generating an abysmal 3% of its electricity from renewable sources like solar energy.
Gore talked about updating the electricity grid in the United States. Connection with areas rich in wind and solar energy would help the rest of the nation. He also talked highly of plug-in electric vehicles (PEHVs), which, if combined with a carbon tax could "increase the flexibility of our electricity grid." Gore's speech has been compared to the 1961 address of JFK to put a man on the moon within 10 years (which was accomplished ahead of schedule, by the way).
Later in the day, Mr. Gore answered questions on National Public Radio (NPR) regarding his monumental speech. Among many things that he discussed, Gore noted the fact that Germany has a strong solar energy policy and, as a result, the relatively small country has more solar panels installed than the total square footage in the United States.
Watch Al Gore's Speech here:



When asked about whether Gore would accept an invitation to be Vice-President once again, he laughed and stated that he had imposed his own term limits on the Vice-Presidency, which he served for 8 years under Bill Clinton. At this point in his life, the 60-year old Gore is much more interested in serving the cause of preventing further global warming than sitting in political office. I cannot think of a better person to lead this charge.

Mr. Gore noted that 10 years is the maximum amount of time we have to act before we will not have the ability to recover from environmental crisis. Tellingly, Gore also noted that a decade is just about the amount of time our political attention span would permit: "A political promise to do something 40 years from now is universally ignored because everyone knows that it's meaningless. "Ten years is about the maximum amount of time that we as a nation can hold a steady aim and hit our target."
Let's all hope that our attention span for reducing greenhouse emissions and our reliance on foreign oil supplies does not run out first.

7/18/2008

Solar Panel Glass-A Window to the Future

There is another exciting development in technology news concerning solar energy! On July 10, 2008, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced the development of "solar concentrators," which operate to take energy from sunlight that strikes a window and concentrate it at the edges of the pane, where solar cells would be located.
The effect of the new solar windows would be to increase efficiency of traditional solar panels by up to 100%. The new solar panel glass would be best suited for office buildings with large areas covered by windows. Similar to solar paint, special dyes that absorb light is "painted" onto a pane of glass. When UV light strikes the panes, solar energy then is pushed out to the edges and collected, where it can be harnessed on much smaller surface of solar cells.
The solar windows such as these would be a more cost-effective way of utilizing renewable solar energy, than larger, more expensive solar panels. The future will still have to wait, however. It will be about three years before solar panel glass will be available for installation and use.

New system will deliver about twice as much power(100% more!) than regular solar panels.

For more information, watch the following MIT video in which Mark Baldo discusses MIT's solar concentrator.

7/17/2008

Solar Taxi on Tour

If you thought Solar Taxi was the name of a new rock group, think again. The Solar Taxi is a two-seater solar powered electric car that can go over 200 miles without recharging and can reach a maximum speed of 60 MPH. The car is powered by a five-meter solar trailer covered with six square meters of solar cells. Electricity is stored in a newly invented ZEBRA battery. It’s the brainchild of Swiss teacher, adventurer and environmentalist, Louis Palmer, whose dream is to drive this car around the world without using a single drop of gas or creating a single CO2 emission. His dream is coming true right now. The point, according to Palmer, is bigger than a personal challenge. He wants draw attention to the need for alternatives to fossil fuel and to demonstrate that there are solutions to global warming.

The Solar Taxi team started driving west from Europe last July and has now traveled more than 34,000 kilometers covering India, China, S. Korea, and Australia. At the moment they are cruising down the west coast of the United States—country number 28 so far—making stops at various UC campuses before heading east. They plan to be in Montreal by the end of September. The tour will finish at the World Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland on December 3rd. You can check out the route here. Stop by and say hello if you have a chance.

Driving the Solartaxi in India
Holy Cow :-) The Solartaxi team had to lean on the horn driving in India


from Shanghai to Beijing in China
Solartaxi takes on Chinese beaurocracy-- they don't call it red tape for nothing :-)


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