Monday, September 3, 2012

New Solar Panels Made with More Common Metals Could Be Cheaper and More Sustainable

U.S. scientists say that emerging photovoltaic technologies will enable the production of solar shingles made from abundantly available elementsrather than rare-earth metals, an innovation that would make solar energy cheaper and more sustainable. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, a team of researchers described advances in solar cells made with abundant metals, such as copper and zinc. While the market already offers solar shingles that convert the sun’s energy into electricity, producers typically must use elements that are scarce and expensive, such as indium and gallium. According to Harry A. Atwater, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, recent tests suggest that materials like zinc phosphide and copper oxide could be capable of producing electricity at prices competitive with coal-fired power plants within two decades. With China accounting for more than 90 percent of the world’s rare-earth supplies — and prices rising sharply — companies and nations are racing to find new sources of rare earth minerals, which are used in everything from solar panels to smart phones.

In 2011, Dow installed a Powerhouse system in Katy, Texas as part of an employee contest before the product was made commercially available. The Ross’ family-owned business, Ross Electric Co., was chosen to connect Powerhouse below the rooftop. The family was able to see the installation hands-on, and decided to be one of the first in the country to install this total residential roofing solution that not only protects like a standard asphalt roof but also generates solar electricity, turning the roof into a source of value and savings.

Said Ross: “I am proud to invest in my home with such an innovative and good-looking product. I expect that my Powerhouse roof will reduce my utility bills by about 40 percent and will increase my home value overall.”

Beldon Roofing Co., the exclusive Dow Powerhouse authorized dealer in San Antonio, worked with the Ross family to custom design the solar roof array to align directly with the family’s budget, roof design and energy goals.

“This is an exciting day for us to be a part of the first Dow Powerhouse solar roof installation in Texas,” said Brad Beldon, president and CEO of Beldon Roofing. “We are seeing the way San Antonians think about their roof change now that they have the option to purchase a smart roof system that goes to work for them and pays for itself.”

The Powerhouse Solar Shingle roofing system is offered to San Antonio homeowners as a packaged turn-key system It includes a custom designed array of shingles to fit the individual homeowner’s budget, roof design and energy goals; a DC-to-AC inverter that feeds the home’s power needs or can be returned to the power grid; and a monitoring system accessible from any internet connection, showing real-time energy production and generation

Made in the United States and backed by a 20 year warranty from Dow, the Powerhouse Solar Shingle is also certified as both a solar and roofing product. It has received seven performance and safety certifications, including the backing of Underwriters Laboratories, International Code Council Evaluation Service certification and is proven to withstand rain, hail and wind uplift.

Visit to find more information about the Dow Powerhouse solar shingle and to get specific information on availability.