Why Can’t I Shingle My Roof with Solar Cells Now?

Why can’t I shingle my roof with solar cells now? Years ago I heard about a company in the Southwestern U.S. that makes polymer solar cells in sheets, so inexpensive that they were predicted to be able to provide a roofing product that would generate electricity by perhaps 2003. Since I first heard of them, I have heard of other companies in Europe and the United States with even more interesting technologies – solar cells being printed by ink jet printers on rolls of polymer, and which use nano-scale particles to achieve much higher efficiency than previous, similar concepts. Where are they, and why aren’t we seeing these new technologies coming on-line?

The market for products like solar roof shingles is certainly here now. I hear increasing numbers of people expressing interest in concepts like this, and have to believe the potential market is there, but why isn’t it coming about? It would be easy to say it is because of conspiracies among energy companies and profit-motivated groups entrenched in the current, old system, but that seems too simple (and perhaps paranoid). Are the products too plagued with implementation issues, either in production or in use, to be ready to sell? Or is it just the size of the market, and that the available volume of the products is just too small to provide more than a very limited availability? I can’t believe the latter is the case, because, if nothing else, the news media would be jumping all over such a technology as soon as it was first installed anywhere. I intend to do more digging and write what I find out here, but, for now, must ask you to please comment if you have any real information that would help answer this question: Why aren’t we hearing of houses roofed with solar cells, or the low cost solar cells that companies keep promising?

The future holds high-efficiency homes that generate at least some of the energy they use. Lights with timers and sensors, high-efficiency and possibly active insulation, and extremely efficient schemes to heat and cool using the daily temperature changes in the environment all will be combined to maintain a good standard of living for most of us in the future. Products that generate electricity from the sun, wind, and perhaps even temperature differences between the earth and air can be developed in packages that will be installed as part of every home. We are a resourceful and dedicated species with a strong survival instinct, and have the capacity to achieve a comfortable future and a healthy planet, but we must keep learning, thinking, and acting with this long term goal in mind. We must also keep communicating and collaborating as effectively as possible with others to bring them along on this journey to a great future.

As always, thanks in advance for your comments.  Please understand that I will publish only comments that give meaningful information.  I know we all have feelings and fears we’d like to express, but I aim to find answers or credible explanations for what is happening and make this item as worthwhile to read as possible.  Thanks again – Tim


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