Shingle-Type Solar Roofing

Solar roofing from United Solar is taking the hassle out of installing solar collectors. The shingle-type strips simply nail on in place of asphalt shingles.

"The bulk of the industry is dominated by 50-year-old technology," says Subhendu Guha, president, United Solar Ovonic, LLC, Auburn Hills, Mich. "It's very reliable, but very heavy, fragile and high cost. Our solar cell is only half a micron thick and is deposited on thin, flexible stainless steel. Our manufacturing costs are lower and so are our installation costs."

The solar shingle strips are 86.4 in. long and 12 in. wide with 5 in. of exposed area. Each strip is rated at 17 watts output. The strips are wired in series with bypass switches in case some are shaded and not producing power. So far the company has been concentrating on large commercial installations, but the residential market is beginning to be explored by dealers, says Guha.

"With increased demand, production is going up and the cost is coming down," he says. "Today we have capacity to produce 250,000 100-watt strips. By the end of this year, our capacity will double, and by the end of next year, it will double again."

Right now, United Solar Ovonic strips payback depends on state and federal tax credits and local cost of power. Guha points to California residents who he says have a 7 to 10-year payback on an installation today.

The shingle strips are nailed in place with common roofing nails over 30-lb. felt underlayment. A stick-on product to go over metal roofs is also available.

Each strip of shingles is wired through the roof into a conduit. Produced power is fed to an inverter and into the grid.