Eventually it may be so easy to collect solar energy that homeowners will find it second nature. Dow Chemical has plans to develop and sell solar shingles, roofing materials that have embedded photovoltaic materials. That's especially good news to homeowners who live in communities where subdivision or neighborhood caveats forbid the use of the current solar panel arrays that mount atop your roof. I don't know how the new solar tile and shingle technology will be priced, but the costs are certain to come down over time like most everything else.
According to business publisher Kiplinger, the shapes and colors on the new tiles match most of today's home styles. Not only that, but the technology allows the installation of solar-collecting materials into other architectural features besides roofing, including porches and eaves. I wonder if they'll eventually even be suited for use on decks.
Solar shingles, says Kiplinger, are currently available from companies like SunPower, Lumeta, SRS Energy, OkSolar.com, and Suntech--however these shingles must be wired, one-by-one, by the installer. The Dow product is expected to plug in as a system and can be installed by any roofing contractor on a new or retrofit roof.
Switching on Photovoltaic Power
Solar panels are not new, of course. But the new generation of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) can be stand-alone products or work in tandem with your existing home power source, firing up when the sun is in the sky. The teamwork system sounds a lot to me like the newer hybrid vehicles, using clean systems that are augmented by fossil fuels.
In time, the BIPV system may gather more energy than your home can use, which means you can sell it back to your energy company and create energy refunds rather than bills. Right now installing an alternative energy system that meets Federal requirements can earn you nifty solar tax credits.
Kyocera has been selling home solar panels to consumers since the 1970s. It currently sells four residential-sized photovoltaic packages and three light-commercial packages. These, however, are served up in arrays that may not be acceptable to some homeowner associations.
Or course, the economics of putting in a solar power system--in an array or tile model--depends largely on where you live in the country. This Old House reports that a system in New Mexico, for example, generates about 25 percent more energy than the same setup in Boston. Still, widespread deployment of solar roofing systems seems to be only a matter of time.