IN the roof, not on it
If you want free electricity
from the sun but don't want rows of pool-table-size
solar panels spoiling the lines of your roof,
there's now an easier, more attractive solar
photovoltaic solar power, or BIPV, has taken the ugly and awkward out of residential
solar power systems.
Simply put, BIPV is the mixing of solar
power cells into materials you'd normally see on a building, such as roof shingles
or the UV coating on a window or skylight.
It's most popular application
is the solar shingle, where solar cells are
glued or mounted to the surface of a common
roofing material, such as slate, cement or
asphalt. The shingles are then installed like
a traditional roof. The solar panels are no
longer on the roof; they are the roof.
The technology has been around
for about five years, but it's become more popular recently, thanks to declining
prices, federal tax credits and state incentives for homeowners installing alternative
Homeowners qualify for a tax credit of 30
percent of the cost of a solar power system, up to $2,000. The credit, which reduces
the tax owed dollar-for-dollar, was set to expire in 2007 but has been extended
through 2008. Most states offer additional incentives, including grants, low-interest
loans and state tax deductions.
When combined, incentives can
lower the upfront costs of installing a solar
power system by 60 percent to 70 percent,
says Noah Kaye, director of public affairs
with the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The typical American household
uses about 10,656 kilowatt-hours of electricity
each year, or about 888 kwh per month, which
means a 6-kw solar power system would be needed
to cover all of that home's electricity needs.
A 1-kw BIPV solar roof system
costs about $14,000 before incentives, says
Art Rivera, marketing representative for Sunslates,
a solar roof tile manufacturer in Sacramento,
Calif. At that cost, the typical American
family would have to spend $84,000 to generate
all the electricity it uses.