Solar Shingles: Making Solar Less Ugly 0

Different homeowners have given different reasons for not wanting to invest in solar installations. Some worry about the up-front cost or the value of their home, though that argument is quickly fading away. Others question whether the technology is effective, though again those ranks are steadily disappearing.

But one still common complaint from some people is that they do not like the look of rooftop solar installations. Over the past 30 to 40 years, solar panels have grown steadily slimmer and sleeker looking as solar companies improve their manufacturing processes and put a great deal more effort into appearance. Numerous companies now offer low-profile, all-black solar installations that will detract little from the appearance of a home and, more likely, add to the appearance.

For some, however, these improvements are still not enough. That is where Dow Chemical and its new solar shingles come in. CNET reports that this new application of solar technology was developed with the express intent of making residential solar installations simple and easy, with less concern about appearance. The small solar panels mimic the pattern created by traditional shingles while also boasting impressive durability, supposedly able to survive a fall from a two-story roof.

The key to the technology, GigaOm reports, is the use of copper indium gallium selenide – CIGS – solar cells printed onto a steel foil backing. Many CIGS companies jumped into market quickly and suffered as falling silicon prices kept traditional solar systems at the top of the heap. But, with the help of Dow, CIGS manufacturers NuvoSun and GlobalSolar have gotten into a potentially major new market at the ground floor.

The market is just now beginning to emerge as well. The Denver Business Journal reports that Dow has announced agreements with its first new Colorado solar installers, actually three roofing companies. Colorado was chosen as the testing ground for the new technology, presumably because of its strong market for residential solar installations. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that the state was the fifth largest solar market in 2010, with one-third coming from the residential sector.

Crain News Service reports that after the roll-out in Colorado in January, Dow intends to quickly bring the new solar shingles to 12 other states in the next 18 months. The next group is scheduled to include California and Texas.

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