Everyone knows that using solar energy is a great way to conserve energy AND lower your energy bills. So why haven’t more people jumped on the solar energy bandwagon yet? Researchers think it has a lot to do with aesthetics and lack of convenience (not to mention cost). Photovoltaic solar panels, which were invented in 1954, consist of grids of raised black cells that, up until now have usually come in the form of large clunky rectangular panels that either stand alone, or must be bolted onto a roof. In addition to being aesthetically unappealing, some homeowners have been reluctant to embrace the technology because installing solar panels may require puncturing an existing roof and bolting on metal supports, which can void the roof’s warranty.
Fortunately, electronics companies have seen the light, and realized the market potential for aesthetically appealing solar panels that can be integrated into the roof of one’s house. Finally, there are now quite a few aesthetically appealing brands of BIPV, (or Building Integrated Photovoltaics) out in the marketplace today.
Sunslates, made by Atlantic Energy Systems are photovoltaic cells which can be mounted to traditional slate roofing tiles and can be networked alongside each other in horizontal strings of 24. Due to their roots as regular roofing tile, installation is relatively straight forward and can be accomplished by any trained roofer & electrician. Furthermore, Sunslates work well in both new building developments and re-roofing applications, as they require minimal “roof penetration” for running wires to the inverter.
Bigger companies like General Electric, PowerLight, and Sharp have all jumped on the BIPV bandwagon as well. Sharp is currently the biggest manufacturer in the world of integrated solar roofing panels. Compared to Sunslates, Sharp’s new solar roofing modules are bigger, longer, and instead of snapping onto regular roofing tile, they replace roof tile. Sharp’s BIPV lay flat on the rooftop, interlocking smoothly with standard roof tiles. They are compatible with most shapes and sizes of roof tiles used in new residential construction, with one module replacing five standard concrete tiles.
So now that you know how easy and stylish it can now be to revamp your house for solar power, what are you waiting for?
The market for solar energy is growing at over 30 percent a year. States which have been particularly hard-hit with energy concerns in the past decade are trying to make the coversion to solar power. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed that 1 million homes in the state install solar power systems by 2010, but the state assembly failed to pass the necessary legislation. I’m crossing my fingers that my beloved home state will pass the Million Solar Roofs initiative next time around.
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