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Green Building News

Dow Drops Its Line of Solar Shingles

The last of its Powerhouse Solar Systems will be shipped by August 10

Dow Chemical is phasing out its photovoltaic roof shingles. The product, Powerhouse Solar System, is a line of building-integrated photovoltaic modules that combine the functions of roofing shingles and solar panels.
Image Credit: Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical is giving up on its line of building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roofing shingles.

Less than five years after entering the market, the company says it will accept orders for the Powerhouse Solar System only through July 28 and make its last shipments by August 10, MLive reported.

A Dow spokesperson said in an email that the company planned to “transition its Powerhouse platform to a licensing business model.”

The solar shingles are manufactured with flexible solar cells made with copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) produced by NuvoSun, a wholly owned subsidiary acquired by Dow in 2013. As Greentech Media notes, NuvoSun is one of many companies that have ventured into CIGS technology with hopes it would be an efficient, less obtrusive, and lower-cost alternative to conventional crystalline silicon solar panels.

That hasn’t quite worked out. The shingles have a low profile, but the thin-film CIGS cells aren’t as efficient at generating electricity as standard solar modules, and they’re difficult to manufacture. In the end, investing in building-integrated solar “amounts to paying a premium for less of a return,” as Greentech Media’s Julian Spector put it.

Pricing information posted at the Dow website seems to bear that out. The company says that if a typical residential roof using conventional materials costs $10,000, the same roof incorporating enough Powerhouse shingles to generate 3 kilowatts of electricity would be $25,000, after federal and utility incentives.

At $3.50 per watt, standard PV modules rated at 3 kW would cost $10,500 installed, before the 30% federal tax credit.

A time of change for Dow

The announcement comes as Dow Chemical prepares for a merger with DuPont and as it takes full control of Dow Corning. Dow announced in late June it was cutting 2,500 jobs globally, about 4% of its total workforce.

Dow Solar employs about 130 workers in Midland, Michigan, and Milpitas, California. Most of those positions will be affected by the cutbacks.

Powerhouse shingles were launched in 2011. At the time, the company said the single was “integral to Dow’s transformation, and a key part of its strategy to invent and innovate new technologies.” The Solar System 2.0, first released last year, was the latest version of the shingle with better power density and easier installation, according to Dow.

CertainTeed continues to make a roofing shingle with an integral solar collector, the Apollo II PV Roofing System. Unlike Dow’s Powerhouse, it uses mono-crystalline silicon cell. The 60-watt modules weigh less than 3 pounds per square foot and have a wind rating of up to 150 mph.

2 Comments

  1. Jay Freischlag | | #1

    Great looking
    It's a shame as the look is much cleaner of the thin integrated then that roof mounted. However it's big business looking at merger and cutting cost where it doesn't fit their model. Paying a premium for the look. This should help certain teed but time will tell.

  2. Charlie Sullivan | | #2

    No regret here
    I have no regrets about it being dropped--the CertainTeed product is much better and has similar, maybe even better aesthetics.

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