The following guest post was written by Daniel Fielding, a freelance writer who focuses on gadgets and the environment. He is the lead editor for Shades of Green, a Green Technology Blog.
Roof Shingles Meet Solar Panels
By Daniel Fielding
“We have the technologies for a global clean economy, but they will not deploy in significant numbers without greater public policy certainty and incentives,” said Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO, The Dow Chemical Company. “Even without the optimal policy environment, however, we are investing in energy efficiency, in research, development and the deployment of clean technologies, and we are designing innovative financing mechanisms to support investments.”
This was one of the many keystone issues discussed at the recent climate conference in Cancun, Mexico. An annual event hosted by the United Nations, COP 16 included topics ranging from the economy of a sustainable society, to the technical hurdles we have yet to conquer.
One of the more exciting developments recently, lies in the field of photovoltaic technology. Solar energy is quickly becoming the superstar of the alternative energy industry. The first consumer-grade solar shingle, expected to be released early 2011, is just the first of many next-generation photovoltaics aimed at a wider audience. Many on Wall Street speculate that the Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles will produce revenues in excess of $5 billion dollars between now and 2015. This release, combined with earlier breakthroughs on the protective films that cover the shingles, brings the dream of sustainable energy closer to the average consumer. The reason this energy option stands out from traditional solar panels, is because Dow’s solar shingle is installed onto a roof and performs much like a typical asphalt shingle. The solar shingle not only performs the usual functions of shingling, but also greatly decreases a home’s energy costs.
The transformation of sunlight to electricity is made possible by innovative photovoltaic technology. Dow’s shingles will use copper indium gallium diselenide solar modules (CIGS), which are considered second or third generation solar tech, compared to the much less efficient . CIGS is generally most efficient at turning sunlight into electricity. This CIGS technology is brand new and gaining ground quickly in the field of energy efficiency while simultaneously allowing solar power to be generated from thinner material. According to Dow CIGS-based PV cells are incorporated into the product by molding them with a polymer formulation which results in a unique design that has similar aspect, weight, and installation practices as an asphalt shingle and also generates electricity. Electrical circuitry is integrated into each shingle and connected by plug connectors. The shingles have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years.
According to Alternative Energy: A 2009 Report Card, solar energy has grown 1,000 percent since the turn of the century. Yahoo Finance says solar energy will grow 1,500 percent globally by 2020. The research industry group GlobalData presents statistics that suggest Cumulative Installed Solar Photovoltaic Capacity will grow from 1,428 in 2000 to 298,415 by 2020. The U.S. has extended tax breaks for solar energy under the recent stimulus package. The domestic tax breaks and numerous international subsidies for solar energy put into place by many Europeans nations as well as China exemplifies that the domestic and international demand for solar energy will only increase.
Even with domestic and international demand for alternative energy sources like solar energy, Executive Vice President Peribere highlights the importance of consistent support via state legislation and incentives in order for the solar market to expand. The company expresses that a lack of clarity surrounding the country’s political agenda is causing businesses and investors to stay on the sidelines. “Businesses have a lot of money they want to spend on growth. Most of that is being spent overseas — including us.” Stephanie A. Burns, Dow Corning Corp. chairwoman and CEO said an example of the “political uncertainty” is the U.S. government’s research and development R&D tax credit. The tax credit reduces federal tax liabilities, based on the amount a company spent in the development of a new product or to improve existing products “It would be great if that was permanent and we knew it was there,” Burns said. “And we knew we could rely on it and we knew the investments we do make here would have a tax benefit.”