Dow Chemical Co. unveiled a line of photovoltaic solar panels that can be integrated into rooftops with standard shingle materials.
Dow's Powerhouse solar shingles integrate thin-film photovoltaic cells into a proprietary injection molded roofing shingle design. According to the Midland, Mich.-based firm, roofing contactors can install the panels with no specialized skills or knowledge of solar array installations.
The solar shingle systems will be available in limited quantities by mid-2010, and Dow expects them to be widely available in 2011, putting the power of solar electricity generation directly and conveniently in the hands of homeowners, the company said in a news release.
The solar shingles, which are are copper indium gallium diselenide-based solar cells made using thin-film technology, encased in molded plastic, were introduced at an Oct. 5 event at Dow's Midland headquarters.
Dow officials declined to disclose what polymer they are using, saying only that it is a proprietary, Dow-developed resin. The panels are being injection molded in-house.
Because any roofing contractor can install these, consumers will save about 50 percent on installation costs, according to Dow.
South-facing roofs in the U.S. will yield more energy than north-facing ones, so the rate of return on investment often will be determined by climate and home orientation, said Dave Parrillo, senior research and development director for Dow Solar Solutions.
Most residential solar arrays are designed to offset 40-80 percent of the home's energy bill, but some arrays are much smaller or much larger, Parrillo said via e-mail. There are even instances where the roof is large enough that homeowners can produce more energy than they consume, meaning the home ends up supplying surplus energy to the grid.
The shingle array jacks into an inverter box, which connects the system to the home's electrical wiring system.
The shingles cost about 10 percent less than a comparable rack-mounted system, he said. Dow officials estimate the cost to be 40 percent less than competing panels that attempt an integrated aesthetic system.
Dow's initial focus is on the new-construction market, then retrofits, Parrillo said. The company will not select specific distribution channel partners until after the initial rollout and market testing in 2010.
Dow's Solar business received $20 million in funding from the Department of Energy to develop building integrated solar arrays for residential and commercial markets. In late 2008, Dow installed a 1,350-ton Husky Quadloc Tandem press in Midland, as part of its effort to get commercially viable solar shingles to market.
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