Tesla's new home solar power roof tile product is an interesting twist on an existing technology. The tiles are certainly attractive, and come in a variety of styles designed to fit different architectural themes. The company's roll-out and press event was light on economic and cost specifics, but heavy on aesthetics and presenting a holistic "systems" approach to home solar power self-generation, storage, and consumption. See if solar makes sense for you:
In light of the recent heat wave -- er, heat dome -- that has been blanketing the country, we thought it'd be fitting to share one of the interesting side benefits of solar panels: they can help keep your roof cool. Here's how it works, in general terms:
Solar panels are typically installed on a rack that stands off against the roof. The resulting gap between the panels and the underlying shingles allows air to circulate around the array. This setup is good for the solar panels, which perform best in cooler temperatures. It's also good for the roof, the ceiling and the residents inside.
It turns out that the gap and the panels create a thermal barrier that helps keep the inside of the building cool. Recently revisited by the Independent, a 2010 report confirms that buildings with rooftop solar panels are typically cooler than those without:
How do you allocate roof space for both a solar PV system and a solar hot water system? True solar enthusiasts occasionally run into this type of dilemma. It's most common to see one or the other on an individual roof, but the space requirements for these complementary technologies add another dimension to choosing between photovoltaics (PV) and solar hot water, or going with both.
You might have noticed lots of buzz this past week about Michigan-based manufacturer Dow Chemical Company's new line of solar shingles . DOW POWERHOUSE shingles are made of CIGS or thin film photovoltaics. The shingles are designed to be installed like regular shingles--and by regular roofers, which is what sets them apart from shingles currently on the market. Now, Dow has not made a lot of technical specs available about these shingles, and we at GetSolar can't seem to get answers to some of our questions directly from them. A couple sources say they operate at about 10 percent efficiency (which is fairly standard for shingles; normal solar panels are more like 16 to 20 percent, though some lab tests have gone as high as about 30 percent). So, we can't discuss these particular shingles in depth. What we can do is tell you some of the pros and cons of solar shingles in general.
If when you think of solar panels, you envision stretches of the desert filled with the deep-blue glint of enormous solar arrays, you're not wrong. That's the environment in which solar power is both most efficient and most cost effective. But did you realize that solar panels on your townhouse or high-rise in an urban environment can also be incredibly useful?