Solar panel systems have always been criticized as bulky and unattractive. New solar technology is beginning to make such critisms a thing of the past.
While everyone agreements solar energy is a clean, cost-effective energy source, there has always been one problem. The solar panel systems tended to be large and rather bulky. Frankly, they do not add to the beauty of a home. While solar panel designs have improved over the years, a new development involving shingles is getting a lot of attention.
Photovoltaic shingles are a major design breakthrough for those who have a distaste for large solar panel systems. These shinglees are, well, shingles. The replace the shingles on a roof, but have the physical appearance of a regular roof. Although they are black, they do not standout from the roof in the manner of panels. Instead, the they simply look like a regular roof and many people can not tell the difference. Obviously, this seamless design is much better than the bulky designs of panel systems.
The technological breakthrough that makes this new technology possible is the invention of thin film photovoltaic cells. Known as "amorphous silicon thin alloy technology", the designers essentially stepped back from traditional solar panel designs and did some thinking. What they realized is the materials used in panels were not the only ones that could be used. Without getting overly technical, the design team came up with a solution where more efficient cells could be built on a steel substrate. Each super thin cell was tailor to capture different spectrums of the sunlight. When layered on top of each other, they became extremely efficient at producing power.
The ultimate result is a system that can sit directly on the roof of a home or building, is more efficient than regular solar panels and far more appealing from a visual perspective. If you're excuse for not using solar in the past was the bulky system, you need to rethink solar.
Will this new technology become the breakthrough we have been waiting for in solar power? It already is if you consider just the following:
- The United States Army is building a solar powered community using it.
Museums in Beijing, China are converting to it.
Habitat for Humanity is using the system on many of the homes it builds.
Lockheed Martin is experimenting with the technology as a power source for high altitude flights.
In the opinion of many experts, this new technology represents a major breakthrough in solar energy. With energy prices exploding, solar represents the best solution to reducing our dependence on limited oil and natural gas resources. Fortunately, the sun will be providing free power for the foreseeable future.