March 9, 2007 4:07 AM PST

ICP eyes streamlined look for solar power

Solar panels can help reduce electricity bills and greenhouse gas emissions. It's too bad most of them are so ugly.

That may be changing. Later this year, Montreal-based ICP Solar Technologies will come out with a line of roof tiles with solar cells built in. By integrating the solar cells into the tiles, the system should prove more aesthetically pleasing than a billboard-like frame of solar panels sitting on top of the roof.

"We've already signed up a builder in Spain," said ICP Chief Executive Sass Peress.

Spain is one of the fastest-growing solar markets in the world, in part because of a recently enacted law that says new homes must incorporate some type of renewable-energy technology such as solar water heaters or solar electrical panels.

More than a year ago, solar-panel systems specialist PowerLight started selling integrated solar roof tiles to developers such as Grupe Homes, which has inserted the tiles in homes in some developments in California. The solar tiles add about $15,000 to the cost of a home, but cut power bills by about $1,300 a year and should add to resale values, according to developers. Real estate agents say the homes have sold fairly well. (PowerLight subsequently was acquired by solar panel maker SunPower.)

Originally, the solar roofing tiles were seen as a way to reduce the cost of installing solar power. Roughly half the cost of a solar system lies in installing the system on a roof. With the solar cells integrated into the roof tile, the installation costs decline because the system goes up at the same time as the roof. The aesthetic benefits were more of a bonus, SunPower CTO Dick Swanson has said.

Unlike PowerLight, ICP will not make its solar roof tiles out of rigid crystalline silicon, but of amorphous silicon. Amorphous silicon solar cells are cheaper to make, but historically have not been as reliable as crystalline panels. Companies, however, have improved the performance of amorphous panels, ICP's Peress said.

Amorphous silicon panels will also have to compete against silicon panels made from copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS. Both CIGS and amorphous silicon panels are printed in thin, flexible films.

See more CNET content tagged:
PowerLight Corp., tile, solar energy, roof, silicon

4 comments

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Solar Technologies (Rocks) cool
If solar power is made available and understandable I would invest solar power for my small home. Are options are Canadain Tire and USA web sites. People don't know what to buy! At least I don't I have a wood electict furnace and I would love for that to run on solar, my hole house too. One thing you can depend on is that even if hydro goes down because of a little wind you alway have that good old Sun to depend on. THANKS FOR THE INFO.
Posted by angle.sky (8 comments )
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Appropriate use of energy
I would never use solar to run a furnace since that would be the worst of all worlds. If you need heat and want to use solar power then use the power to run a heat pump and / OR use solar heating technology, which is at least efficient.

Can Tire only caries the comodity panels but at least they carry something.

What we need is some distributors to get of their high horses and big butts and make these tiles available.

I rememebr one company used to make sheet steel panels that looked like your garden variety asphalt roof shingles using, I beleive, thin film cells from an IOWA company and they looked to be as easy or easier to install than the asphalt shingles themselves. They have evaporated since I cant find them any more and the IOWA companies products have become more expensive for some reason.

I want my solar room dang it. At least you dont have to work about municiple code violations like you do with a wind turbine. >_>
Posted by thrudd (5 comments )
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But is the technology ready for market?
Solar roofing material is great in theory and a very promising technology, however, as the technology stands now, each shingle must be individually connected. This leaves a great chance that a connection could go bad and affect the entire system-and could be costly to maintain. This technology needs to be refined before it hits the mass market.
By the way, author of this article, maybe you shouldn't be making blanket statements about PV panels being so "ugly" when, this is your opinion, and not everyone who is interested in solar power shares it. I, for one, think SunPower panels are sleek, thin, black and beautiful. What I find ugly is the ever-increasing rates and corruption of public utility companies. Oh yeah, and global warming is pretty ugly, too!
Posted by shera89 (19 comments )
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lets all go solar now!
I hope this research continues. There is a solar solution that consumers can take advantage of right now. I am a manager with a brand new company called CitizenRe. If you ever wanted to help the environment and get most of your energy from the sun and not from your dirty energy provider, this company will provide you a solar solution with NO UPFRONT COST! Please investigate and continue discussion in this thread:

www.jointhesolution.com/yorkville

After you get real excited about this program and want to help spread this GREEN solution, go to:

www.powur.com/yorkville
Posted by yorkvillesolar (9 comments )
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