UNI-SOLAR PowerShingles pre-announced at Solar Power International 10

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?!


  1. ECD Fan says:

    October 19, 2010
    Solar: Raymond James Downgrades ENER

    Molchanov downgrades to Underperform, from Market Perform. “With ENER shares already down 53% year-to-date, this downgrade is, admittedly, rather late. That said, the outlook for amorphous silicon is looking more and more bleak. This simply does not seem like a [solar] technology that will be viable over the long run – a point on which our channel checks were unequivocal at last week’s Solar Power International conference.”

    Hmm, somebody else must have noticed the product pre-announcement.

  2. Dennis Witte says:

    I too am disinfranchised with ECD and it’s market approach. I left on my own accord a few years back as director of marketing, however, many, many others have not left on thier own accord; but have been let go as a cost save measure. Many of the persons let go were long term employees with years of loyalty to the original owner Stanford R. Ovshinsky. Sad to say, I believe that ECD’s demise is not “down market” related but more related to how they “go to market”. Thier strategies start firmly enough, but there does not appear to be much follow through on partnering with the right entities to create a WOW market. This can be seen by the CEO presentations made to investors. These presentations focus on the right product attributes, the seemingly correct financial forecasts, but never enough on who can help ECD get the right traction in the right markets; that is always left up to the listener to determine based on implications. Is it not a curiosity to the investment community why thier NA sales VP left to go to Solendra. Is more money always the answer to that question?

    Subhendu Guha, chief technology guru, used to say to me that no one else was as smart as him in the world and absolutely no one could duplicate thier product or integrate thier amoprhous slab into a final product. WRONG! SRS energy produced a fantastic Power Tile using ECD’s junk slabs. ECD focused more on the fact that they were making great profit on junk slabs as opposed to the implications of a fine product partner. Allen Brothers (Luma Resources) also came up with a fantastic residential kit using ECD small power products. But, rather that congratulate and support a fine partner, Mark Morelli told me he would never share profit with a small no-name start-up. In the end, ECD fought the Allen Brothers patent and stopped selling them product. Just before leaving I had been working with many third party partners. One I really liked was CertainTeed. They were eager to develop the first true solar shingle. In the end, though, all CertainTeed has mustered is an Energen product which looks suprisingly like the resdential products ECD used to apply on homes 15 years ago. it may have a lower cost, better installation, etc.; but aethetically – a loser. instead, suprisingly, again instead of supporting a fine partner, it appears ECD has decided once again to keep the profits in house and bring back thier old resdential product – the Power Shingle. Keep in mind that this NEW, FIRST EVER product is really the OLD product re-marketed. ECD had lost UL listing a couple years back onthe old residential shingle. Now they have brought it back inthe hopes it will WOW investors, not the communities that mightuse the product. For example, the roofing installer community told ECD years ago that although the product was unique, it did not conform to the size and shape of a normal shingle which made it non-confomring to installer practices. An then there was the hole that had to be drilled fro each shingle to run wires into the attic. Then you had to bring in an electrician to combine hundreds of wires to the converter components. Both SRS and Luma resources came up with installer friendly wiring techniques that a roofer could deploy eventually entering the attic at only ONE hole. Why could ECD not work with it’s partners to make this product useful to the installer market? Probably because, again, this is a decision to WOW the investment community, not one to actually bring a useful product to market. I’m sure the true focus is on how many Jaquars one can put in the garage before the company goes under.

  3. ECD Fan says:

    Oops! Dow says a solar shingle is not a solar shingle unless it has an integrated connection system:

    November 02, 2010 08:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time
    DOW POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingles Receive UL Certification

    Revolutionary Technology from Dow is First Solar Shingle to Obtain UL Safety Mark

    MIDLAND, Mich.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) announced that the DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle is the first residential solar roofing shingle with an integrated connection system to receive Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety certification. The DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle is a ground-breaking photovoltaic solar panel in the form of a solar roofing shingle that can be integrated into rooftops with standard asphalt shingle materials. It reduces installation time and complexity using a revolutionary system design that eliminates on-roof wiring, minimizes through-roof penetrations, and allows the product to be installed in the same manner as a standard roofing shingle. …


  4. Mr. Gunther,

    When one reads your “expose”, one can’t help but read a slant to you comments.

    Why did you expect anything more than a “non-functioning” mock-up for the trade show? Are you not aware these Shingles {will} work on solar power (ie, the sun), not incandescent or flourescent lighting?

    Did Dow have a fully-functioning solar array pumping out 100’s of kWh with their moisture-ladened knock-off “shingle” at the show? Nope, but no report of that for direct comparison.

    Did you happen to ask the role the “spokesperson” had at/with Uni-Solar? Or was this person merely a hired outside contractor with limited knowledge? I’m sure a call to the company before the publication of your blog would have answered many of your questions.

    Are you planning on updating your article with the UL-certification info on the NEW PowerShingle? Here it is: http://database.ul.com/cgi-bin/XYV/template/LISEXT/1FRAME/showpage.html?name=QIGU.E182242&ccnshorttitle=Photovoltaic+Modules+and+Panels&objid=1074115849&cfgid=1073741824&version=versionless&parent_id=1073991981&sequence=1

    I wonder what was “fluffy” about the handout you were given by the booth attendant. I don’t see anything “fluffy” about Uni-Solar’s PowerShingle brochure they have online (thank you for supplying that link).

    Costs being similar, you are right, personal preference (and HOA covenants) will be part of the decision process for residential solar arrays. To use either solar shingles that blend in seamlessly into the roof line or have bulky heavy glass enclosed roof-penetrating solar ping pong tables bolted through one’s roof? That’ll be the question indeed. Certainteed!

    This summer, with the expected roll out of the PowerShingle, will certainly be telling and I look forward to reading your update on the PowerShingle at that time.

  5. ECD Fan says:

    Billbeer Macstuntclanhenke: Dow has a fully-functioning solar array of POWERHOUSE shingles as shown here: http://www.weather.com/outlook/videos/earth-watch-solar-shingles-18686 . Now, where is the fully-functioning solar array of Unisolar’s PowerShingles? That’s right – nowhere – it does not exist. The UL certification means nothing – there are many Unisolar modules on that UL sheet that were never (and will never be) produced commercially. Solar shingles’ costs are not similar to regular modules – both the Dow and the Unisolar shingles will be significantly more expensive than regular PV, and thus, will turn out to be major commercial failures. However, Dow can afford it, while Unisolar cannot. Certainteed already failed completely with their first version of Unisolar “shingles,” EnerGen, which was launched in the Spring of 2010 but still has no sales. And so has SRS Energy, with their Unisolar-based PowerTile.

    The PowerShingle is fake. Period.

  6. ECD Fan

    I supply facts. You supply agenda-biased speculation. You are no prophet. You are misleading.

    When you say “regular modules”, please be specific that you mean the bulky ridgid Chinese glass-panels that your firm supports.

    UL does not certify fake products.

    One of many homes with the PowerShingle installed

    New Jersey pilot program for PowerShingle: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39314519/ns/business-press_releases

    EnerGen is on the Michigan Governor’s home.

    With an agenda against ENER, this new product evoling understandably has you worried…. “The new roof and re-roofing market is estimated at more than four million homes per year in the U.S.”

  7. ECD Fan says:

    Billbeer Macstuntclanhenke: UL does certify products that don’t exist, from time to time. For example, UL has approved PVL-29 and PVL-140, yet those Unisolar modules were never manufactured and never will be – they simply make no commercial sense given their form factor. So, far, there is no evidence that any of the newly-approved “Photovoltaic Roofing Shingles” will ever be manufactured commercially by Unisolar.

    The picture you linked does not show any PowerShingles – it shows the SHR-17 shingles – yeah, the ones that lost their UL certification and became illegal to sell in the United States. The guy with the Russian fur cap is probably not very happy these days (NREL has also shown that SHR-17 likely violates its performance warranty, but Unisolar is suppressing the public release of that long-term degradation study)

    The so-called “New Jersey pilot program for PowerShingle” is dead in its tracks, particularly after the monumental 3.9MW Adler disaster mismanaged by the same team of NJR and Unisolar.

    EnerGen is indeed on the roof of the Michigan Governor’s mansion, a free gift she got after diverting millions of taxpayer money to Unisolar. All in vain, as nothing can save Unisolar when the debt is due in 2013. EnerGen sales, predictably, never materialized, despite their “launch” a year ago – customers are not gullible enough to pay $6 per Watt, pre incentives, for a bulky, weird PV system on the roof.

    The inefficient, funky-colored, overpriced PowerShingle simply has no chance in the residential market, even if Unisolar somehow manages to produce a non-fake product. Unisolar’s yet other residential experiment, the PowerTile, managed to sell just one 2KW system in California last year – not surprising given the bargain price of $12.32 per Watt, pre incentives. People have not forgotten SHR-17!

  8. ECD Fan says:

    We should all thank Billbeer Macstuntclanhenke. He has pointed out that Uni-solar’s website, as of today, June 24th, promises the PowerShingle by mid 2011, that is by the end of June, or in a week. Uni-solar’s failure to deliver said PowerShingle in a week will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the PowerShingle is fake (as fake as the fake company Uni-Solar and its fake parent, ECD).

  9. ECD Fan says:

    Can you believe it? Unisolar AGAIN unveils its fake PowerShingle, a year later, at SPI! Citing from the press release http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/news.html?d=235602 : “One important product making its appearance at SPI is the improved PowerShingle.” Too bad the thing is not even UL rated yet! “We are currently ready to get Class-A fire rated by UL….” Luckily, Unisolar will be bankrupt within less than a year, so it can’t cause much more damage (remember, the previous shingle, SHR-17, lost its UL certification and it became illegal to sell in the United States in 2007).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *