Oct 22, 2009

Science Scene - What on a Shingle ???

In what could be a big boost for the fledgling building-integrated photovoltaic sector, Dow Chemical last week unveiled a solar shingle that promises to address two of the biggest issues hampering expanded solar deployment on homes—installation cost and residential aesthetics.

After two years and $100 million in development costs—aided by some $20 million in Energy Department cost-share funding—Dow Wednesday unveiled a thin film solar array that looks much like a strip of standard black asphalt shingles, albeit a bit shinier.

The Dow shingle utilizes copper indium gallium diselenide, or CIGS, cells that can convert about 10 percent of the solar energy hitting them into electricity. As with other thin film solar cells, CIGS panels have roughly half the conversion efficiency of conventional silicon-based solar modules, meaning rooftop arrays have to be bigger to generate the same amount of electricity.

Dow’s real breakthrough—if it is confirmed in field tests planned for next year—is that its “Powerhouse” shingle can be installed by roofers with the standard nail-it-in method used for regular asphalt shingles.

The arrays also plug into each other through a proprietary connector, eliminating the need for extensive wiring typically required for rack-mounted roof-top solar arrays; electricians still will be needed to attach the arrays to an inverter and house electricity systems.

A Dow system capable of providing 60 percent of an average-sized home’s electricity needs could cost around $27,000, with subsidies bringing the after-tax cost down to $7,400.

While optimistic about the new shingle, Dow officials made clear that a commercial roll-out of the new shingle is still more than a year away. They note that their pilot production facility has an annual output of only 3 to 5 MW, and they also plan extensive market testing next year to see if their research on installation and homeowner acceptance pans out in the field.

I hope this is just the tip of the iceberg for greener options for homeowners.


  1. Sounds like we are slowly moving towards the future of renewable energy. Hopefully the test will go well, and lead to bigger breakthroughs.

  2. This looks good Ken.I still say they(photovoltaic companies)are stalling, trying to buy back lost time while they sat on their hands for the past thirty years. We looked into getting a panel system installed on our roof and it was gong to cost us 35k-45k to do so. We would have recouped some of that money in rebates, but not nearly enough. I want to see them get their act together and launch the big guns. Sixty percent of a homes electricity is good, but I think they can do much better than that. If DOW can't do it someone else should.

  3. Very cool. I KNOW we can come up with new and exciting ways to generate energy!

  4. I think it is awesome!

    be well...

  5. Here in Texas heat gain in attics is a huge concern, especially when one has a large western exposure of roofline, which I do. I have often wondered if adding a solar array would be cost effective, because not only would it be able to generate a lot of electricity, it would also shade the attic and reduce the need for air conditioning. I wonder if these shingles would have the same effect?


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