Dow ramping up molding of solar shingles

By: Mike Verespej

October 20, 2011

MIDLAND, MICH. (Oct. 20, 2:55 p.m. ET) — Dow Chemical Co. has begun commercial deliveries of its Powerhouse solar shingles, and is ramping up production at its pilot plant in Midland.

The solar shingles hit the Colorado market Oct. 13, and Dow’s plan is to roll the solar shingles out to 12 more states, including California and Texas, over the next 18 months. Current production is 400 shingles daily, Dow said.

A plant for full-scale commercial production — which Dow expects will employ 1,275 and create a $1 billion revenue stream by 2015 — is currently under construction in Midland. At that point, the plant would have the capacity to make enough shingles for 40,000 to 50,000 homes, according to Dow.

Dow Solar said it chose to launch the solar shingles in Colorado because of the state’s solar-susceptible environment, high grid-supplied energy costs in the state, and an incentive program designed to encourage consumers to buy products such as solar shingles.

Luxury homebuilder D.R. Horton said it will make the solar shingles standard on the next phase of 50 homes that the company plans to build in the upscale Spring Mesa community in Arvada, Colo., outside of Denver. Each home will have a 3 kilowatt array of the thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide photovoltaic shingles that are designed to look like conventional roof shingles.

Dow estimated that a new solar shingle system, including the shingles and an energy converter box, would cost between $10,000 and $15,000 in states that offer government solar incentives. It estimates that the solar shingles will reduce energy costs by 50 percent, with the shingles paying for themselves somewhere in a 5-12 year timeframe.

Initially, the shingles will be sold through dealers, not big box retailers, Dow said.

“The early-on focus is going to be with homebuilders and a network of roofing contractors to support new building and re-roofing applications,” said Dow Solar marketing director Dan Pezolt.

The solar cells are integrated by Dow into a proprietary polymeric-based shingle through injection molding. The interlocking shingles are designed to be used alongside asphalt shingles on a standard roofing underlayment. They can be installed with standard roofing nails at the same time asphalt shingles are installed.

The three-part solar roofing system package includes an array of shingles, an inverter and an energy monitoring system. The shingles are arranged to complement the style and form of the home and roofline. The inverter then converts direct current produced from the shingles into alternating current which is then fed to the home’s appliances, or back to the power grid.

Dow’s solar business received $20 million in funding in 2007 from the Department of Energy to develop new residential solar products.