Residential solar has two main obstacles—expense and aesthetics. Even if I could afford it, my HOA probably wouldn't allow it. All of this could change thanks to Dow Solar Solutions and their Powerhouse shingles.

The shingle will use thin-film cells of copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), a photovoltaic material that typically is more efficient at turning sunlight into electricity than traditional polysilicon cells.

Dow is using CIGS cells that operate at higher than 10 percent efficiency, below the efficiencies for the top polysilicon cells — but would cost 10 to 15 percent less on a per watt basis.


As you can see, the panels look like standard asphalt shingles—and they can be installed without any specialized knowledge. In fact, they only take about 10 hours to install on average compared to the 22-30 hours for traditional panels. Since a basic roofer could handle the job in a short amount of time, installation costs should be more manageable. Plus, Dow claims that their Powerhouse will be 30% to 40% cheaper than other solar shingle designs.

This could finally be the innovation that gets homeowners on the solar bandwagon. It's still not cheap of course, but the energy savings, boost in home values and government incentive programs might make the upgrades worth it. [Reuters via Treehugger via DVICE]


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