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August 26th, 2009

Spanish tiles go solar

Published on August 26th, 2009 | By: pwray@ceramics.org
Credit: Sole Tile

Photovoltaic tiles are installed alongside traditional clay tiles. (Credit: SRS Energy)

With this August heat we have solar on the mind! Here is another interesting advancement in solar cell technology, brought to us from Re-Nest.com.

SRS Energy claims to have the first building-integrated photovoltaic roofing product designed for curved roofing systems. The Solé Power Tile is an electricity-generating tile that can be installed alongside traditional clay tile roofing (but only those made by US Tile). The company claims they can generate up to 500 watts per 100 square-feet — comparable with that of traditional solar panel installations. According to the manufacturer, about 20-25 percent of an average roof would feature the solar tiles and the rest would use traditional, matching ceramic tiles.

The molded-plastic body is fused with a sheet of flexible solar chips that give it its distinctive blue color. And although its noncrystalline silicon cells gather less energy than conventional tilt-up panels with stiff crystalline cells, they react to a broader spectrum of light even on foggy, cloudy days.

Credit: Sole Tile

The roofing system produces a natural air flow beneath the tiles to reduce cooling requirements of the home by 5-20 percent. (Credit: SRS Energy)

The roofing system produces a natural air flow beneath the tiles to reduce cooling requirements of the home by 5-20 percent.

What about the energy footprint of manufacturing process, itself, used to make these solar tiles? According to SRS, the tiles take less time than conventional solar panels to generate the same amount of energy required to produce them.

What does a system like this run? 1,000 square feet of solar tile would cost about $25,000-$30,000 installed, but you can knock 30% off that cost after government energy rebates, plus state and local government incentives may be available to cut the cost.

SRS Energy and US Tile are currently launching the Solé Power Tile system in select West Coast markets, and will begin a nationwide rollout of the product in spring of 2010.

Not everyone, however, is convinced that these tiles will live up to their billing. Some observers (see comments here) raise important questions about whether, for example, the curvature of the tiles will decrease the theoretical energy output of the tiles.

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