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.

1 comment:

  1. Anyone can tell what is the cost? More detail links to the product? I need a new layer of shingles anyway so might as well consider this option.

    ReplyDelete

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