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Community and Q&A

Uni-Solar peel-and-stick for standing seam roofs

passivhausfan | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

Is anything like Uni-Solar Powerbond still made?

It seems like a much much more aesthetic form of PV than conventional panels, especially if it were sized correctly to cover the whole south-facing side of a roof. The ideal would be a solar shingle solution that actually looked like shingles or slates, but this doesn’t seem to exist.

I know Uni-Solar filed for bankruptcy so I assume this product isn’t being made any more? Is that the case? If so, where did it all go wrong?

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  1. wjrobinson | | #1

    Not liking to see solar panels is just plain stupid but people love to not like something they haven't seen before. Change, is life, life is change. Love life, love change, love solar panels.

    Why should anyone like a solar panel hater, there was a day not long ago that a solar panel hater was not yet born... should we hate that fact that a hater changed the world by coming into it?

    As anyone can guess... I am not impressed by any of my customers... making small talk... by pointing out a new home going up... "oh aj that home is too big or too close to our home or too close to the lake or they have too much money.... blah blah blah... while never remembering that their huge lake home was built by me after tearing down a ten by ten cabin...." Well solar panel hating is exactly the same and not my cup a tea to hear about.

    Solar panels... look like money to me... off my electric bill! I love that look myself. Pass the word... teach the preach... Love a solar panel hate a utility bill.

  2. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    The Uni-Solar peel-and-stick product was an example of amorphous thin-film PV (as opposed to the crystalline PV cells that are commonly used to assemble most PV modules). Amorphous thin-film always had one strike against it: these products produced significantly less power per square foot than crystalline PV modules.

    As one point, amorphous thin-film was almost competitive with crystalline PV -- especially for customers who had a huge roof and didn't mind the low power output. But crystalline PV modules kept getting cheaper and cheaper, until they were so cheap that you would have to be crazy to choose amorphous thin-film.

    In 2004, an article in Forbes magazine noted, "For Energy Conversion Devices [the manufacturer of Uni-Solar products] .... 2003 is a year with a remarkably familiar ring to it. There have been large losses, the defection of a large corporate investor and promises of major developments and profits around the corner. ECD may deserve a place in the Guinness Book of World Records: It lost money in 36 out of the 40 years it has been a publicly traded company. ... Bekaert spent $96 million building a thin-film photovoltaic factory in Auburn Hills, Mich. for a joint venture called Uni-Solar Ovonic, but the Belgian company retreated in May. 'We would have needed huge additional financial resources,' says Bekaert spokesperson Françoise Vanthemsche. 'We would have had to invest for years and years before we could have hoped for a return, and we can't work like that.' Ovshinsky declared the technology ready for commercialization in 1978. Now he says it will be profitable by 2005."

    It wasn't.

  3. kevin_in_denver | | #3

    Dow Powerhouse shingles are pretty darn good looking and shouldn't have the field problems that peel-and-stick had.
    Still, the product introduction has been slow, and they are still relatively expensive.

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    For a review of Dow Powerhouse shingles, as well as similar products from CertainTeed (Apollo Solar Roofing and the EnerGen Photovoltaic Roof System), see New Green Building Products — February 2012.

  5. passivhausfan | | #5

    Thanks for the links.

    The problem from my point of view with those "Powerhouse" shingles and Apollo shingles is that they are ugly. The Apollo ones are not even offset by course (so couldn't possibly shed water properly if they were actual shingles). They look very faux, and they don't cover the whole roof so they actually stand out and catch the eye. The shingle options are never shown covering the whole roof, in part because they don't seem to have a tile-and-a-half (or half tile) to go at the edge even if one wanted to do that.

    It's much worse aesthetically to have something that tries to look like another material but doesn't than to have a simple panel that looks like what it is. There are silicon PV tiles available but I believe they're prohibitively expensive. Hence I think there's definitely a market for something that blends in seamlessly and "honestly" with standing seam. For full coverage one would only have to get the size right in one dimension and there are tricks one could use in new construction (e.g. a gambrel at the correct angle or a large ridge) if only standard lengths are available.

    If anything, the lower efficiency you mention would actually be a positive feature (if the price were right) because then one could afford to cover the whole roof, which would look much better than having a large area of panels that competes visually with the main roof covering. But perhaps the market conditions don't support that. A pity.

  6. roygoodwin | | #6

    For me, the issue is with the mounting of the PV panels. I'd really rather NOT poke any more holes in my roof than absolutely necessary. But that probably comes from having some bad experiences with a 1/2" in 12" roof that was covered with 5v crimp galvanized. If I could have something that might not be as attractive, but not require poking holes in the roof, they would offset the ugliness, at least for me.

  7. kimcrow | | #7

    Is there any updated news about PV laminates? They appear to be available both in Canada and the US.

  8. charlie_sullivan | | #8

    Looks to me like what is available is just old stock from Uni-Solar (now out of business). If you don't mind the risk of no warranty coverage on a product that is likely to be less durable than a conventional module, and you like the look and installation process enough better than conventional modules, it could be an option worth considering.

  9. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #9

    Uni-Solar (the best known U.S. manufacturer of peel-and-stick PV laminates) went bankrupt a few years ago, but a few U.S. distributors are still selling existing inventory of the product.

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