Photovoltaic (PV) product pre-announcements won’t help the company or the PV industry.
|From Solar Power International 10|
Just before Solar Power International 10, UNI-SOLAR, an Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ:ENER) company, announced “UNI-SOLAR Brand Debuts First Ever, UL-Approved, Standard-Production Residential Solar Module Roof Shingle”. Based on a tip from none other than ECD Fan, I checked out the PowerShingle products on display at UNI-SOLAR’s booth and discovered the PowerShingle’s were non-functional lacking mechanical connectors for string connection at each end of the shingle. For this reason, the shingles were mounted flush on the simulated roof shown in the above photo.
A UNI-SOLAR representative told me the connectors were only a few millimeters thick and were not on display for competitive reasons. The PowerShingle is expected to be available in Summer 2011. A datasheet was not available, just a fluffy PowerShingle Brochure. When I asked about the specs (specifications), the cryptic response was the product (10 foot version?) had a 25 Watt power rating with a 2 Amp series current and was backed by a 25 year warranty. Another booth visitor was told the shingles had a power density of about 6 Watts per square foot.
Per the “Solar Roofing – Flat and Metal Roofs with Integrated Solar Panels” post at the Cool Roofing Blog:
Solar shingles, just like metal solar shingles, take very long time to install, as each shingle must be connected to the rest of the solar system in series. However, unlike solar metal roofing shingles, there is no room to conceal the terminals under the shingle, so all connections must take place inside the attic space. Holes must be pre-drilled for each shingle, and terminals are fed inside the attic where they are connected.
This slows down the installation process significantly and usually you cannot finish this in one day. If it starts to rain, your roof is toast. There are too many penetrations under solar shingles, and it is very easy for water to get in. Of course there are ways to prevent roof from leaking even if it rains and roof is not finished. You can run the last row of shingles and overlap it with roof underlayment, which will prevent roof leak. Still this makes the total job that much more complicated and costly.
As a building integrated solution, a solar shingles installation must cost less than a new roof with standard solar modules mounted on top. If the PowerShingle interconnection scheme requires roof penetrations, I do not believe it will achieve the above common sense cost target. I also hazard to guess the single color option will not have broad aesthetic appeal, the key and perhaps only benefit of solar shingles.
The UL Online Certification Directory listing (2010-07-22) for UNI-SOLAR Photovoltaic Modules and Panels does include Photovoltaic Roofing Shingles. However, the latest press release is misleading since an earlier UNI-SOLAR product, Solar Shingles SHR-17, was also UL Listed although it is no longer available. Or did I misparse one of the fourteen words in the press release title that carves out a new subtle niche for the PowerShingle?!