Solar Shingles are niche solar products meant for use on roofs of houses.There are not a lot of manufacturers of solar shingles as they are a new product and more difficult to install than standard silicon solar panels.Solar Shingles are manufactured by mainly American companies like Dow,Energy Conversion Devices.Their high costs and lack of easy availability has meant that solar shingles have not really caught the imagination of the customers.Also Solar Shingles do not get any added subsidy from the government vis a vis Solar Panels.Thus the higher prices of electricity generated from solar shingles means that they have become a poorer cousin of the mainstream Solar Panels.Also Solar Integrators are more accustomed to buying and installing solar panels which makes it even more difficult to push the sale of solar shingles.
Solar Roofing Shingle
Solar Roof can be constructed by installing “solar shingles” or “solar tiles” made by some companies.These tiles are interlocking in nature and fit onto the roof just like normal tiles.These solar tiles however can generate electricity from the sun and have wires attaching them which converge into an inverters.This solar inverter converts the DC electricity produced from the solar shingles to AC electricity which is used by the normal electrical appliances.
What are Solar Shingles
Solar Shingle is a roofing shingle. Solar Shingles install just like asphalt shingles, protecting your roof from rain, snow and is integrated into your roof. Solar Shingles use Solar Energy to generate electricity just like Solar Panels.Shingles were designed purposefully tolend with your roof. Developed as a Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) product, they are tough, flexible and thin enough to be a shingle.They can be installed by a roofing contractor, just like regular asphalt shingles. An Integrated electrical connection system eliminates on-roof wiring, with fewer holes drilled into your roof
Types of Solar Shingles
Thin Film Solar Shingles – Thin Film Solar Shingles are Solar Shingles which use Thin Film Technology which is Copper Indium Gallium Selenium (CIGs) in case of Solar Shingles from Dow and Energy Conversion Devices.Solar Shingles are made of crystalline Silicon which are sold by Sunpower.Note crystalline silicon solar shingles have much higher efficiency as compared to crystalline silicon.You can read more about Thin Film Solar Technology and Companies and about the Efficiency of Solar Cells.
Crystalline Solar Shingles – At Present Sunpower is the only company to sell solar shingles made of c-Si on a commercial scale.Though there are a large number of Chinese solar panel manufacturers there are no solar shingle sellers because of the lack of a big market for solar shingles.
Manufacturers of Solar Shingles
- Energy Conversion Devices (Uni Solar) – After First Solar,Energy Conversion Devices is the second largest US company in Thin Film Technology.After a few quarters of profits in 2008,the company went into the red as its flexible a-Si modules failed to cut costs as fast as others.It has been shutting factories in the US and shifting to low cost locations.Still one of the biggest independent Thin Film Producers.Seems more likely that it will be bought out then survive independently.The company sells solar shingles mainly in Italy and France.The reason is that those countries give higher subsidy for BIPV applications under which solar shingles made by Uni Solar qualify. PowerShingle is the brand under which Uni Solar sells its solar shingles.
- Dow Chemicals – This Chemicals Conglomerate has started producing it properietary Solar Shingles recently.While the company first showcased its DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ SOLAR SHINGLE in 2009,these solar tiles will be available commercially only this year.Note Dow uses the same thin film technology Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) used by UniSolar.The company has delayed the introduction of the solar shingles technology despite developing them as far back as 2009.The company was supposed to start a factory in Brazil.The company claims that the installed cost of Solar Shingles will be lower than solar panels (though its difficult to think that it will be possible with solar panel prices crashing to as low as $1/watt nowadays).It is not know what the Dow Solar Shingles cost will be
- Atlantis Energy Systems was founded in 2002 .They manufacture custom solar BIPV Systems (Building Integrated PhotoVoltaic). They produces solar BIPV glass and solar PV SunSlate Roof Tiles in the USA.
- Sunpower (Total) – Sunpower is a vertically integrated solar energy company known more for its highest efficiency solar panels.Sunpower is present in all 3 segments of the solar sytems business namely a)residential b)commercial and c) utility.
Sunpower makes the highest efficiency, building integrated SunTiles. The SunTile brand blends into flat and S-Tile roofs to convert sunlight into clean energy. SunTiles are all-black and built to withstand 110 mph wind-driven rain.
- Sharp the Japanese Zaibatsu known more for its Electronics Products is also the world’s No 1 Company in terms Solar Module Revenues.Despite its leadership in c-Si Technology,it has shifted focus to a-Si thin film due to higher costs.Sharp has started shipping a-Si modules from its 1 GW capacity plant in Sakai. It also sells solar shingles in the form os 64 watt solar panels .The Sharp ND62RU1F is a group of solar shingles all arranged together.It is not really a solar shingle since it does not integrate into the roof but its light since its made of thin film silicon technology and easy to install.
Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels
1) Solar Shingles are integrated into the Roof since they are a Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) product while Solar Panels are mounted on a roof with racks or mouthing systems.Solar Panels don’t blend into the roof.
2) Solar Shingles Protect the Roof from Weather as they are like regular Roof Shingles while Solar Panels don’t do that.
3) Photovoltaic Shingles are not suitable for every roof .They can only be used in roofs which are facing the sun and have a particular angle.Solar Panels on the other hand are more flexible in terms of angles.
4) Solar Shingles cannot be easily moved to another roof or house unlike Solar Panels which can be easily be move
5) Solar Shingles are more expensive to buy and install than Solar Panels.The reason is that they are not produced in large volumes.In fact its very difficult to procure Solar Shingles .
6) Solar Shingles need a Roof Substrate which can handle Heat since Solar Shingles tend to get hot while collecting Sunlight
7) Solar Shingles are more Beautiful to Look at and in some case where Solar Panels are not allowed to be installed they are the only option to use Solar Energy.
Solar Shingles Cost
Solar Shingles due to low volumes and its niche use is much costly to buy and install than silicon solar panels.Solar Shingles are 12-63 Watts and they can cost almost $6-7 watt to install though these rates may vary significantly across installers.Note you need a roofing or Solar EPC contractor to get the solar shingle installation done.You will generally get a quote on the whole system installation and not on buying individual solar shingles.This will cost you almost 1.5x times the cost of installing solar panels.