Solar shingles

Solar shingles 
Solar shingles will serve as an alternative to conventional solar panel installations.
Image by westbywest, used under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

What are solar shingles?

Solar shingles are a roof cladding material that mimic the appearance of regular shingles, and incorporate solar photovoltaic panels to convert solar energy into electricity for the home. These shingles, which are known as ‘building-integrated photovoltaics’ (or BIPVs), are made from a combination of traditional roofing materials (such as slate, metal, or asphalt) and solar cells. For the moment, solar shingles are an experimental product and as such they're expensive and not yet widely available.

The installation of these cells allows you to effectively convert part or all of your roofing surface into an array of small solar panels - the panels themselves can be designed to fit in with other roofing shingles allowing for patterns, or for part of the roof to feature solar shingles while the rest of the roof features another (more affordable) type of shingle.

Solar shingles normally consist of a thin layer of solar cells made from crystalline silicon, which is laminated to the shingle's surface. Each shingle generates a small amount of power, however a whole roof is likely to generate enough electricity to power an entire home.

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Why install solar shingles?

Home owners who install devices which convert solar energy to power can expect to significantly reduce their energy bills, use fewer natural resources and reduce greenhouse emissions. While there are already a number of methods to collect solar energy, the most common system involves installing large solar panels on top of the roof.

Solar panels are proven to be an effective and affordable method for generating power for the home, however some people may not like how they look. Solar panels are large and they stand out, often spoiling the appearance of an otherwise attractive roof finish. Likewise, a large solar panel installation is likely to add a considerable amount of weight to a roof.

Solar shingles are likely to become a more popular cladding material as the technology matures. Solar shingles are designed to resemble normal roofing shingles, and can be installed in more or less the same way as regular shingles.

 

Where are solar shingles found?

For the time being, solar shingles are still quite rare, but it's expected that they'll be a popular option throughout Australia as the technology matures and becomes more affordable.

 

Advantages
  • Reduces energy bills
  • Looks neater than other solar panel installations
  • Cuts greenhouse emissions
Disadvantages
  • Still being refined as a roofing product
  • Not widely available yet
  • Expensive
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