A green revolution has hit the construction industry in force, and solar roofing shingles are spearheading the attack. In a world that’s moving towards a zero carbon building code (that’s even being voted into law in the UK and Europe by 2016), the quest for environment-friendly building and roofing materials has peaked, with many companies researching solutions for mainstream home owners.
Solar roofing shingles were based on the photovoltaic cell principle of converting sunlight into electricity that was stored in capacitors for later use, to power household utilities like lights, fans and even heavier equipment.
Depending upon the location of a building and the duration of sunlight available, it was even possible to turn solar roof shingles into a profit generating venture, by allowing home owners to return any surplus electricity generated back to the power grid, in exchange for a credit against future consumption, or even cash.
No longer are solar roof shingles the outsized and shiny coverings that could be spotted a mile away, and caused the kind of glare and glitter that detracted from the aesthetic appeal of a building. Today’s solar shingles have the photovoltaic components nicely embedded into their design, in a manner that’s even hard to tell that they are different from any other regular shingle.
And things are getting even better. Recent research into ‘carbon positive’ products has led to more powerful innovation. Solar roofing shingles in the modern era do one more thing – they heat up the building to maintain internal temperatures at around 25 degrees Centigrade all through the day. The concept behind a prototype funded by Dow Solar in New South Wales, Australia is to use solar shingles to heat up your home using a combination photovoltaic and thermal system.
In the final stages of testing, this novel solar shingle is due to undergo field testing in Australia shortly, after which it will be made widely available in the market. A similar initiative at the Energy Innovation Hub in Philadelphia in the United States has been focused on testing and identifying low carbon building and roofing concepts.
Solar shingle technology has not yet become widespread in the US, with Colorado being one of the few states that have actively embraced the technology (Dow Solar manufactures and sells the line of PowerHouse Shingles). The shingles are integrated into a system that also comprises an inverter and solar energy monitoring system.
With a lot of research ongoing and a public outcry against the use of material and methods that are harmful to the environment, it is only a matter of time before we see increasingly creative solar based solutions for both warming up homes and providing alternatives to fossil-fuel energy. Combined with the threat of a stiff ‘carbon tax’ on those who continue to pollute nature, this may well be a watershed period in the move to homes with green roofing.
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