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Dow starts mass-marketing solar shingles

Company is releasing flat-laying thin-film CIGS solar shingles in a first U.S. market: Colorado. A dozen states are set to follow by the end of 2012.

Roofer installing Dow Powerhouse Solar thin-film solar roofing shingles.
Dow Solar

Colorado now has a slightly more aesthetic option for harnessing all that lovely Rocky Mountain sun.

Dow Solar, a division of Dow Chemical, began selling solar roofing shingles this month that may attract even the most exigent homeowner.

While there have been several pilot projects throughout the country where the Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles have been installed since their release in 2009, Colorado is the first state where the shingles will be available for widespread sale and installation.

Dow Solar then plans to mass-market its shingles in a dozen more states, starting in California and moving across the country to states on the East Coast by the end of 2012, according to the company.

Though obviously much more reflective, the CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, and selenide) thin-film solar shingles resemble typical asphalt composite shingles in shape and size, and when installed mimic the same brick pattern. The shingles boast easy installation and durability, with Dow Solar claiming they can be walked on or even dropped from a two-story roof with no damage inflicted.

The solar shingles also come with an inverter for converting from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) that can be used in the home, as well as a home energy monitor that tracks in real time how much energy the shingles are producing and how much of that is being consumed.

The thin-film solar cells used in the roofing material are supplied by Arizona-based Global Solar and promise an efficiency of 12 percent.

While upfront cost is certainly a major barrier for solar, another reason often cited by homeowners not going solar is the unseemly look of traditional solar panels. The obvious hope is that having flat-laying shingles that blend at least a little into one's roof might encourage more homeowners to consider solar.

As part of its kickoff in Colorado, Dow Solar has partnered with home-building company D. R. Horton, which plans to install three-kilowatt solar shingle roofing on each home in a 50-home development in Spring Mesa, Colo. The homes range from 2,204 square feet to 4,115 square feet and start at $485,950.

Aside from using the aesthetic angle to attract customers, Dow Solar notes that the solar panels come with a 20-year warranty and are "Made in the USA." And, yes, they actually are. The shingles are currently being manufactured at a small plant near Dow's headquarters in Midland, Mich., with plans to expand into a large-scale facility as more shingles are sold. Dow Solar estimates that the plant could create 1,275 jobs by 2015.