No more bozy solar panels! These lay-flat roof panels from BP and Sharp make it easier on roofers to install and can be paired with a solar water heating system for added eco-benefits. Photos: OCR Solar Roofing
After some four decades of existence, solar power may finally become an accepted, economically viable alternative to grid power sources. The United States is the world's fourth-largest solar power market after Germany, Japan and Spain. The U.S. saw nearly 150 megawatts of solar capacity hit the grid in 2007, up some 45 percent from the previous years. A total of 750 megawatts were produced, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a U.S. trade group.
However, solar panels bolted to residential and commercial roofs to convert the sun's energy into electricity are still far too pricey to compete with fossil fuels such as coal or nuclear energy without generous subsidies on the local, state and even Federal level. But that might change very soon, thanks to innovations from solar power companies small and large.
Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower Corp., the largest solar power company by sales in the U.S., predicts “grid parity,” or an equalization between solar and fossil fuel electricity, will happen in about five years. A bold claim, no doubt; but with high energy prices and an overstretched national power grid, his prediction may come to fruition.
Sharp Solar Energy Solutions: The latest to come from Sharp's solar business is the OnEnergy System, which uses a simplified, flexible mounting system to speed up installation and improve aesthetics. The company allows builders to configure each system online. Sharp says the racking system is compatible with virtually all types of roofing materials.
BP Solar: The Home Solutions Program helps builders to integrate the company's Energy Tile solar panels into their communities. The company sends a representative to give an assessment of your homes. These assessments factor in roof type, pitch, shape and orientation, as well as offer an analysis of potential shading throughout the year. Every system includes an inverter to convert generated power from DC to AC electricity.
GE: The energy company recently teamed up with roofing giant GAF to market, and ultimately, develop new solar modules for new and retrofit construction. GE currently offers the builder-centric, pre-packaged Brilliance line. These systems feature solar modules integrated into customizable arrays. The systems ship with all the components necessary for a complete installation, including the mounting kits and a wireless power meter to monitor the system's performance. These are available with or without an Uninterruptible Power Supply.
PV Solar Planet: Using United Solar Ovonic's UNI-SOLAR thin-film solar laminate material, the Sunseeker 68/136 Building-Integrated Solar Electric Generator by PV Solar Planet is a lightweight and flexible roofing material. It integrates onto PV Solar Planet's Sunseeker standing-seam metal roofing panels. The film is extremely durable and maintains a greater efficiency rating than rigid photovoltaic cells.