Chances are, you know if your neighbor has solar panels on their roof—the shiny black photovoltaic panels are a dead giveaway. But Dow Chemical is making rooftop solar power covert with its solar shingles, expected to be released next year.
The solar shingles, which can be integrated into regular asphalt rooftop shingles, ditch traditional polysilicon solar cells for thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) cells. Dow's CIGS solar cells are over 10% efficient, meaning they capture 10+% of the light that hits them. That's less efficient than some polysilicon cells, but also 10 to 15% cheaper per watt. The Dow shingles are easy to install, too, taking an average of 10 hours for placement. In comparison, regular solar panels take 22 to 30 hours to install.
There's another hidden benefit to Dow's shingles—they are less likely to be visible to thieves than traditional panels. California has seen a slew of rooftop panel burglaries in the past few years. Thieves make off with the solar panels and sell them on the black market. But shingles nestled into a roof can't just be removed by snipping off a few wires.
According to Dow, a rooftop solar shingle array costs approximately $27,000, and offsets 60% of total home energy consumption. It's an expensive upfront cost, but the company still believes the shingles could generate $5 billion in revenue by 2015 and $10 billion by 2020.