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Not your average solar panel: The SRS solar roof tile

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August 23, 2009

The Solé Power Tile is the first building-integrated photovoltaic roofing product and excl...

The Solé Power Tile is the first building-integrated photovoltaic roofing product and exclusively available to customers of US Tile

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Thanks to a system created by SRS Energy and offered exclusively as an upgrade option to customers of US Tile (the largest manufacturer of clay tile in the United States), those wishing to benefit from rooftop solar energy will no longer have to worry about any panels being stuck on the side of the roof and spoiling the aesthetics. The Solé Power Tile system is the first building-integrated photovoltaic roofing product designed to blend in with curved roof tiles commonly found in the Pacific West and Southwest of the United States.

Each tile is 37.4in wide and 18in long, there's generally a 3in overlap leaving 15in of tile exposed to sunlight. A 30 tile per 100 sq ft installation will weigh 240lbs and generate 860 Kw/h per annum (assuming 5.8 peak sun hours). According to SRS Energy: "triple-junction amorphous silicon thin-film technology incorporated within the Solé Power Tile" is manufactured by United Solar Ovonic and "allows the system to produce an estimated 8-20% more energy than incumbent crystalline silicon panels of the same rated power."

Any power generated by the system which is not used by the building (or stored in batteries if that option is chosen) is fed into the grid. Utility companies then give a credit for the amount of energy generated meaning financial benefits can be enjoyed from day one. Each system is monitored to provide feedback so that checks can be made against any credits made.

Monitored to ensure efficiency

Although SRS Energy claims that those who choose to install the Solé Power Tile system should enjoy many years of trouble-free rooftop energy creation before a tile needs to be replaced, both SRS Energy and US Tile monitor the system to ensure that it's working efficiently. It's set up so that if one tile should fail, a total system failure doesn't occur and the rest of the tiles continue to generate charge as if nothing had happened.

If a tile does fail or it reaches the end of its expected operational life, the thermoplastic polymers used in its construction can be safely recycled. You might wonder why the solar tiles do not color match the clay tiles. Unfortunately blue is currently the only color available due to the limits of the solar technology used in the tile. Other color options may become available in the future as advances in the field are made.

Availability and more info

It is currently only available to a limited number of US Tile customers in the West Coast area. The first residential installation has just been completed at Bermuda Dunes in California. A (US) nationwide rollout is being planned for the Spring of 2010 and international marketing may follow after that.

Pricing an installation depends on so many variants that anyone interested in learning how they might benefit from one of these systems should contact SRS Energy for detailed information, although it may be worth noting that both Federal and State incentives could be available to help offset installation costs.

If you already have a US Tile roof and don't relish the thought of having to pay for a new one don't worry, a retrofit can be arranged. US Tile's headquarters in California is equipped with a demo installation should you wish to see a system in action.

And if you live near Audubon, Philadelphia then you could also pop over to Zwahlen's Ice Cream and Chocolate Company parlor on Shannondell Boulevard as the building has been sporting some Solé tiles on its roof since June 2009 (see gallery).

Details and installation photographs can be viewed on both SRS's website and US Tile's website.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
3 Comments

SRS Energy is perpetrating a massive deceptive marketing campaign, and you fell for it. It is not true that the technology used by Sol� Power "allows the system to produce an estimated 8-20% more energy than incumbent crystalline silicon panels." Since the tiles are curved, only a small portion of the tiles' area faces the sun at an optimal angle, thus the tiles will underperform the regular (flat) crystalline silicon panels. In fact, the Unisolar technology used in the tiles is one of the least efficient on the market today (just 5.9% efficient on panel level, even when the panels are flat, vs 14%-19% efficiency on panel level for crystalline panels).

Zwahlen's Ice Cream and Chocolate Company parlor is actually owned by SRS Energy's CEO, who destroyed a perfectly fine grey-shingle roof just to make a showcase for this "technology," hoping to find enough gullible customers so he can recoup his "investment." Apparently, he is succeeding.

More details on the tiles and the marketing campaign can be found here:

http://ecdfan.blogspot.com/2009/06/marketing-of-solar-tile.html

Facebook User
23rd August, 2009 @ 08:57 pm PDT

The maker of the solar part is a terrible company, United Solar Ovonics, who has and the officers previous companies, left many people with inferior or not working products and has never made a profit I know of Instead taking peoples money both for product or investment and returning little if anything. Beware.

Also a curved solar surface like these tiles cuts eff by about 50% of an already low eff solar cell.

But they do great PR releases.

There are good solar panels out there, just this is not one of them.

jerryd
24th August, 2009 @ 06:37 am PDT

WOW just read this and thought it was a great idea, until I read the feed back. As you mention they do some great marketing and apone thinking about it more and a little research into them yeah they are not fantastic.

I read an article recently about a guy in the states who had made his house 100% solar reliant, which i was very impressed with and the panels didn't seem to be that ugly on his roof, infact i don't think it took up his whole roof, so whats the problem with the normal panels.

Took me a while but I found the article.

http://www.buy-solar-roof-panels.com/2011/08/04/run-your-whole-house-on-solar-power/

If it is that easy why are more of us not doing it?

DonWon
4th August, 2011 @ 04:22 am PDT
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