That's all about to change,
however. Dow Chemical Co., one of America's most successful
chemical firms, is launching the first mass-produced
consumer solar shingle next year and will be planning a
wide-scale rollout by 2011. The firm foresees a booming $5B USD
market for the shingles.
The new shingles use a thin film of
copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) to capture solar energy.
As a result, the cells which are encased in molded plastic are
relatively flexible, unlike their photovoltaic cousins. And
while these elements (such
as indium) are quite expensive in bulk, they're used extremely
sparingly, keeping costs low.
The shingles one weakness is
that they manage just over 10 percent efficiencies, less than
traditional panels. Despite this smaller generation capacity,
they produce power at a 10 to 15 percent lower cost on a per watt
basis due to production and installation cost savings.
contractors greeted the news with "an enthusiastic response"
according to Dow, as the shingles require no additional special
skills to install. A roof of the shingles can be installed in
about 10 hours, versus anywhere from 22 to 30 hours of specialized
labor to install traditional panels. These installation costs
are an important issue as they comprise approximately half the cost
of traditional panels.
It is unclear what wiring will be
necessary to connect the shingles to household power, but Dow
believes it won't be overly challenging. In total, Dow's
solution will become the biggest player in a burgeoning market of
"Building Integrated Photovoltaic" (BIPV) systems.
While other BIPV solutions exist, many are only available to
businesses, and the cost is typically 30 to 40 percent higher than
Dow's system is extremely flexible and can be
intermixed with traditional asphalt shingles.
managing director of Dow Solar Solutions states, "We're looking
at this one product that could generate $5 billion in revenue by 2015
and $10 billion by 2020."
The new shingles will be
produced domestically, with much of production coming from a
1,350-ton Husky Quadloc Tandem injection press newly
installed in Midland, Michigan in 2008.
deployments of the shingles will be in new housing projects next year
through partners such as Lennar Corp and Pulte Homes Inc. These
smaller projects will build up to a full rollout the following year.
The U.S. Department of Energy has granted Dow a small loan of $20M
USD to help make that vision a reality and complete the
commercialization of this promising product.
This will not be
Dow's first foray into the solar market. It has manufactured
high-efficiency photovoltaic panel material for some time now, and
also produces the heat-capturing liquid used in concentrated
solar power systems.