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16 March 2009


Dow to sell roof shingles embedding Global Solar’s CIGS PVs by 2011

Last month, Dow Chemical Co of Midland, MI, USA (the world’s largest chemical firm, with annual sales of $58bn) said that it aims to start selling power-generating roof shingles by 2011.

As part of its US Department of Energy Solar America Initiative (SAI) project to develop building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) products that make solar energy cost competitive with grid electricity by 2015, since last April the Dow Building Solutions business unit has been working with Global Solar Energy Inc of Tucson, AZ on a $50m Dow Solar Solutions project to develop thermoplastic solar roof shingles products to sell throughout North America.

Global Solar manufactures copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic materials on flexible stainless-steel substrates that have achieved an average solar energy conversion efficiency of 10%. Last year, the firm expanded its factory from 25,000 to 100,000ft² and opened another 32,000ft2 plant in Berlin, Germany last November. The plant in Tucson was due to ramp up to an initial capacity of 40MW by the end of 2008, then to an eventual capacity of 140MW by 2010. The Berlin plant is due to have a capacity of 35MW this year, giving Global Solar a total capacity of 175MW in 2010.

At the center of Dow's project is a $2.5m injecting and molding machine that produces the thermoplastic shingles while integrating the solar cells. The flexible CIGS PV material allows the firm to develop products in an array of configurations that costs less to install, says Robert J. Cleereman, Dow Chemical’s senior director of solar development.

Researchers have already conducted tests in preparing the shingles for market. Dow Chemical is now collaborating with three home builders (Lennar Corp of Miami, FL, Pulte Homes Inc of Bloomfield Hills, MI and Prost Builders Inc of Jefferson City, MO). Builders like the ease of PV cells integrated into roof shingles, reckons Dow Chemical, since there’s no need to build the roof and then install photovoltaic panels above it.

The marketing for solar shingles will be shaped by government subsidies and utility policies, Cleereman says. “I can see utility companies paying for the roofing for customers. It would save them money on building power plants because the solar shingles can act like individual little power plants,” he says. “The target and the business opportunity is to make this product the same price as the traditional electricity from your local power facility,” adds Global Solar’s corporate product director Charles Gambill.

See related item:

Settlement agreed to close Dow’s acquisition of Rohm and Haas

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