InterviewUS Dow aims for $5bn in solar shingle sales by 2015

05 October 2009 21:50  [Source: ICIS news]

Solar shinglesBy Joseph Chang

NEW YORK (ICIS news)--US major Dow Chemical sees sales potential for its new solar shingles of around $5bn (€3.5bn) by 2015 and $10bn-11bn by 2020, the head of the company’s solar business said on Monday.

“We’re opening up a brand new market that does not exist today. Solar panels have many restrictions and are just not affordable to be used in any meaningful way, but we believe our product will change that paradigm,” said Jane Palmieri, managing director of Dow Solar Solutions (DSS).

“This is a transformational platform at Dow that can really be a needle-mover,” she added.

Dow earlier on Monday introduced its line of DOW POWERHOUSE Solar Shingle - photovoltaic panels that can be installed on rooftops with standard asphalt shingle materials.

Technology from DSS would integrate low-cost, thin-film CIGS (copper indium gallium deselenide) photovoltaic cells into roofing shingles.

In 2007, Dow received $20m in funding from the US Department of Energy (DoE) to develop building-integrated solar arrays for the residential and commercial markets.

Dow’s solar shingle system will cost on average 10% less than applied solar panels - those that are bolted onto rooftops, and 40% less than similar building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems, Palmieri said.

BIPV systems, while in existence today, are “very boutique and very niche” as well as expensive. Also, applied systems have major aesthetic limitations, she added.

The cost to the average US homeowner consumer would be around $27,000 for the DOW POWERHOUSE system versus around $30,000 to upwards of $45,000 today, excluding federal, state and local subsidies, Palmieri said.

In the case of Arizona, which has large local subsidies for solar panels, the after-tax cost to consumers for the Dow system would be around $7,400 versus $9,300-18,000 for other existing systems, she added.

“It will depend state to state, but this reduces the overall cost impact to the consumer in a considerable way,” Palmieri said.

“We eliminate the need for a solar installer or electrician, since our product is installed just like a conventional shingle - by roofers," she noted.

The shingles would be interlinked and the power sent either to the homeowner’s converter box to supply power directly to the home or to the electric grid, where homeowners could earn credits, the head of DSS noted.

The use of Dow’s solar shingles in a home would typically offset between 40-80% of power usage, or 2-4 kilowatts, Palmieri said.

Dow will first sell its solar shingle systems directly to major homebuilders such as Hovnanian, Pulte and Lennar.

“We’ll sell directly to the builders initially as we’re interested in proving that this product can drive solar adoption rates for the masses,” Palmieri said.

“Then we can envision other distributors that would allow us to penetrate the re-roof and smaller custom homebuilders,” she added.

The photovoltaic raw materials for the market test will come from US-based Global Solar, Dow’s partner in the DoE’s Solar America Initiative (SAI) project, according to Dow.

Dow Solar Solutions was started as a business platform in 2007 with the US DoE funding and became a business unit of Dow in 2008. The solar shingle product will be the first for the unit.

($1 = €0.69)

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