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