Solar Roofing Tiles

Solar Roofing Tiles

How will these solar tiles perform? The prototypes of the new solar tiles are 2 percent less efficient in converting sunlight to energy than SolarCity’s existing solar panel technology. Part of that is due to the design. The coatings that make the glass solar tiles look so good reduce their efficiency. But these aren’t a final product. As they move toward production in 2017, SolarCity may be able to increase efficiency. Tenent says he’ll be curious to see how the solar tiles, which are incorporated into a home’s roof, handle the heat. Currently, many rooftop solar panels are installed on racks above a roof, which allows airflow around the panels, keeping them relatively cool even as they sit out in the sun all day, every day. That’s important, because many photovoltaics can actually become less efficient as they warm up. But solar tiles installed directly on a roof won’t necessarily have the same ventilation built in. In depth details about the ventilation systems for the solar roofs haven’t been discussed publicly yet.
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Solar Roofing Tiles

Solar shingles are photovoltaic cells designed to look like and integrate with conventional asphalt roof shingles. First commercially available in 2005, solar shingles were much more costly than traditional “bolt-on” photovoltaic panels, and thus were used mainly by those wanting to go solar but maintain a traditional roofline. But more recently solar shingles have become price-competitive with bolt-on panels, and are getting much more popular accordingly. Eco-conscious home and building owners might find solar shingles especially attractive when they are re-shingling anyway since the solar shingles also double as functional, protective and weatherproof roof shingles in their own right. The biggest name in solar shingles is Dow’s Powerhouse line, which uses cutting edge Copper Indium Gallium Selenide solar cells (aka “thin-film” solar) to turn sunlight into electricity via a supplied inverter box. The Powerhouse shingles generate 12 watts per square foot and are “grid-tied,” meaning they’re designed for structures already connected to the power grid and can send excess power back to the grid. They are wireless, snap together and can be installed by regular roofing contractors just like (or alongside) conventional asphalt shingles (an electrician needs to set up the inverter box).
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Solar Roofing Tiles

Last week, on the set of Desperate Housewives, SolarCity and Tesla announced the development of solar roofs, or fully functional roofs that are also happy to generate solar power. We know a few things about them already. The aesthetics of the four prototype roofing tiles are absolutely gorgeous. The tiles are designed to blend in seamlessly with a neighborhood—the solar cell embedded in each durable glass-encased tile is designed to be completely invisible from the street, which is something that sets this solar roof apart from other rooftop solar options. When it comes to photovoltaic (solar energy) technologies, “the aesthetics side of stuff often gets ignored,” says Robert Tenent, a senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who was not involved in the project. “Ugly doesn’t sell in the building space,” says Tenent. For solar technology to take off, he says, it has to meet performance and durability standards, while also integrating with the electricity grid–“and you have to look cool while you do it to really get something adopted.”
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Solar Roofing Tiles

Pro — Sleek Appearance: One of the main benefits of a solar shingle system compared to solar panels is the potential aesthetic appeal. Solar panels can be bulky and noticeably stick out from rooftops, while tiles are designed to match the existing roofing. Although solar shingles may not match all roofing exactly, they do blend in, creating a sleek, level appearance.
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Solar Roofing Tiles

Will existing roofing companies be able to install these, or will homeowners need to go through SolarCity for installation? The solar roofs will be a new roofing product, which will likely mean that roofers will need specialized training to install the roofs. Though you might have a trusted roofing company that you’ve used for years, installing these tiles might not be as simple as going to a hardware store, picking out a pallet of shingles, and having Bob the roofer install them for you. SolarCity says that it will have more information about installation options in the coming months, but it’s likely that they will want to control the installation of the roofs in some way. No one wants their product to get a bad reputation based on a shoddy or inexperienced installation job. Beyond the initial installation, which will be available on new construction and as an option to replace an existing roof, it will be interesting to see how easy these tiles are to maintain and replace over time.
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Solar Roofing Tiles

In an e-mail, SolarCity confirmed this, saying “Solar roofs will be held to all applicable solar and roofing standards, which include building energy efficiency, water proofing, electrical/fire safety, resistance to wind/snow loading and hail impact.” Musk also speculated that some of the glass tiles could incorporate heating elements that could act like defrosters for your roof, allowing homeowners in cooler climates to melt snow off the tops of their houses. That all sounds great, but we’re looking forward to seeing them in action, and in more action than just watching a 1.2 pound weight slam into the roofing tiles, although that is fun too.
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Solar Roofing Tiles

Dow reports that a typical residential cluster of 350 solar singles on a roof could slash one’s household electric bill by 40-60 percent. Such an installation can cost a homeowner over $20,000, but federal, state and local incentives can bring the cost to half that in some areas. Powerhouse shingles are currently available (from Dow-authorized contractors) in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Washington, D.C. Another leader in solar shingles is building products manufacturer CertainTeed. The company’s Apollo line of grid-tied monocrystalline solar shingles and roofing tiles offers efficiency similar to larger “bolt-on” photovoltaic arrays at around the same price (and incentives similar to those for Dow may also apply) but with less bulk: Each Apollo tile is less than an inch thick and will integrate with, replace, or lay on top of existing asphalt roof shingles or tiles and generate 12 watts of power per square foot.
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Solar Roofing Tiles

Will people still be able to lease the panels? Currently, SolarCity offers several different ways to finance their existing solar panel setup, which is generally installed on top of a roof. Customers can: buy a solar energy system outright; get a loan to ultimately buy the system; lease the system; or sign up for a power purchase agreement. In the latter two, SolarCity continues to own the solar panel system, and leases it to homeowners for 20 year increments. That leasing option works great for people interested in solar power who can’t afford the upfront cost of installing solar panels. If, for some reason, the customer fails to pay or has to get out of their lease, SolarCity can take the panels back (or move the system from one home to another if the owner decides to move and wants to take the lease with them). But how would that model work if the panels weren’t on top of the roof, but actually were the roof itself? Would the roof be repossessed? Would it move with you? Who would be responsible for maintaining the roof in the event of leaks or an errant tree branch? SolarCity says more information about financing options for solar roofs will be available in 2017.
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Built to resemble traditional roof tiles, solar roof tiles — or solar shingles — are thin, photovoltaic (PV) sheets that can replace or lay on top of existing shingles. Just like solar panels, solar roof shingles capture energy from sunlight and can be installed in any climate or environment.
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The solar roofing comes in four distinct styles that Tesla presented at the event, including “Textured Glass Tile,” “Slate Glass Tile,” “Tuscan Glass Tile, and “Smooth Glass Tile.” Each of these achieves a different aesthetic look, but all resembled fairly closely a current roofing material style. Each is also transparent to solar, but appears opaque when viewed from an angle.

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