BIPV Solar Shingles vs. PV Solar Panels Vs. New Tesla Solar Roof, Plus Solar Energy Cost Estimates

BIPV solar shingles are designed to replace the conventional, bulky solar panels that get bolted onto the roof. The main benefit of BIPV solar shingles and tiles is their integrated installation as part of the overall roof installation process, rather than adding the traditional PV solar panels by drilling the holes into the roof after it has already been installed. Thus, building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are an integral part of the roof — essentially they are what comprises the roof over your home — in other words, they are the roof itself! 😉

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BAPV Vs. BIPV Solar Shingles

Today, there is somewhat of a hybrid middle ground known as building applied photovoltaics (BAPV), which refers to solar panels or shingles that are retroactively mixed or integrated within the building. The BAPV solar shingles resemble having a large skylight on the roof, as they are only a portion of the total roof.

BIPV Solar Shingles

New York Installer Suntegra claims that 75 percent of homeowners prefer the BIPV type of system. The upgrades include semi-transparent solar glazing, which also trumps basic skylights and windows. In addition, solar facades for buildings that face the sun are another growing option.

With a fully integrated BIPV solar shingles system, you can have a roof comprised entirely of solar shingles. That’s right, you may no longer have to mix it with asphalt! At first, much like tongue and groove hardwood floors, the original solar shingles could only connect with standard asphalt shingles. Dow has begun to solve this problem. Now that Dow Solar is no longer a factor in the solar shingles industry, Elon Musk has bursted onto the scene with his recent announcement and demo of his own version of solar shingles. What’s more, with Tesla’s recently approved acquisition of SolarCity, having a 100% solar shingle or solar tile roof can become a not so distant, albeit expensive possibility for many homeowners looking to replace their aging asphalt roofs.

New solar shingles can resemble traditional roofing materials, such as cedar shake, a multitude of concrete or clay tiles, traditional slates, and polymer. In addition, the new shingles also work free of rack mounts, so the installation and the final product can now be simpler, quicker, and more elegant than before. This is also an improvement for future replacements!

Solar Shingles Vs. Solar Panels

Installation of PV Solar Panels on a Flat Roof

The development of solar roofing shingles and tiles has been in the works since 2005. While many companies have tried to create affordable and cost-effective solar shingles, the industry has struggled to introduce the kind of solar shingles that could compete with the traditional PV solar panels on the merit of affordability and power-generating capacity on a per square foot basis.

Pricing of Solar Shingles and a Note on the Demise of Dow’s PowerHouse Shingles

With Dow Chemical, the average residential cluster would consist of approximately 350 solar panels, with an installation cost of approximately $20,000 or more. In this case, the “more” may involve additional federal or state taxes or less with incentives, depending on the geographic area.

While solar prices can be significant upfront, a well designed solar power system can save homeowners approximately 40 to 60 percent on their electric bill. For the average North Carolina household, this could mean a bill of $120 instead of $300 in July.

Dow Solar is out, Elon Musk and his version of the Tesla Solar Roof are in!


After becoming a dominant player in the solar shingles roofing market, Dow Chemical has closed their solar shingles division in July of 2016. Some of their last products just went out the door in August, making their version of the product obsolete in a little less than five years.

“The demise of the business reflects the difficulty of BIPV within the solar roofing market.” Green Tech Media's contributor Julian Spector writes, “The Powerhouse Solar System joins a long line of nifty green products that couldn’t find enough customers.” With the king no longer on the throne, there is room for new companies to take their shot at the new technology.

And presumably, homeowners won't have to take long. Elon Musk has already demoed has version of Solar Roof followed by the acquisition of SolarCity by Tesla. If you are not very price-sensitive early adopter, Elon Musk's solar shingles roof will probably launch soon in select markets in California. Given, the reputation of SolarCity charging an arm and a leg for their conventional, solar panel systems, be prepared to really spend a lot on their upcoming solar shingles roof. 😉 We are estimating that a typical solar roof from Tesla, coupled with their energy storage battery will tip the scale at anywhere in the range of $60,000 to $90,000 per solar roof installed.

Currently available BIPV Solar Shingles Alternatives: Apollo by Certainteed

Certainteed, for example, offers new options for sustainable innovations, and they claim to have done so for over 100 years. Their product, Apollo, has been designed with waterproofing capabilities. These panels create electricity from PV cells, but still manage to filter water like a regular roof, so nothing is required underneath.

Solar shingles and tiles and other types of solar power systems will continue to decrease in price as the technology continues to mature. Federal government is offering 30 percent tax credits to families who invest in a qualified solar power system, where and when applicable. Currently, the majority of states offer solar rebates and incentives.

Getting a Quote for Solar Shingles

The only true way to get an exact price is to call a specialist and ask for a quote. Since Dow has left the game, Certainteed solar shingles will cost about $30,000 for a typical installation (permitting, materials, and labor), but that may or may not come with a 30 percent tax incentive depending on the state where you live.

The cost is made up of roof shingle, the roof type, area, slope, and the overall system installed. When calling for a quote, there are several questions that you should be able to answer.

Know the size and pitch of your roof. Know what brand of solar system you would like to use (this is obviously optional, but it may be helpful to know whether you want the Apollo 2 BIPV solar shingles, Sun Power Solar Panels, or in the case of Tesla it could be solar slates, etc.) and whether or not your state provides any incentives. Know whether or not your power company buys back electricity and at what price. Know whether or not you need an entire roof or partial, and try to determine if there are any trees that need to be removed.

Certainteed's product, Apollo, can help homeowners save approximately 40 to 70 percent on their electricity bills with the Apollo Shingle System. Currently, there other products include Apollo II, Apollo Tile II, and Solstice. Each option is slightly different, and its availability may depend upon your location.

To find out more information, the best way to locate installers near you is to visit the CertainTeed website and key in your location. The website allows for potential customers to Find a Pro or Get An Estimate, while also including details on Installation and Warranties.

What’s Next for BIPV?

Future updates will require real, in-depth integration. Essentially, solar shingles need to be the roof for a real innovation to occur. Although current methods have been upgrading frequently, a completely solar roof has yet to make its way to the surface. The main concerns still involve resilience and simple incorporation.

This type of upgrade will undoubtedly connect with all future and current residential homeowners. On the flip side, solar shingles may not connect with insurance companies, however, as current roofing last for fifty years (or more) and new technologies could potentially require frequent upgrades and other unknowns.

Beyond logistics, those who wish to manufacture solar technology are still unsure if demands are sufficient to proceed (or with what force to proceed). If a demand is there, for example, the next question is whether or not the products will require adaptations, warranties, upgrades, installment plants, and various other factors.

A final word of warning involves the damages that will occur during installation.. Picture unfamiliar roofers walking on these solar shingles and how those panel membranes may or may not hold up. Any enthusiasm towards new technology is often followed by skepticism and solar shingles are no different.

Tesla’s Attempts to Develop Solar Shingles

As Tesla branches out in multiple directions—solar, electric vehicles, and ride-sharing their growing impact has consumers and global executives equally fascinated. Chairman Elon Musk admits working on a “roofing metamorphosis” which will change the way we, as a society, think about solar installations.

Pairing with SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive, Musk confesses, “I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy, where you have a beautiful roof.” When considering the difference between the General Motors EV1 in 1999 and Tesla’s Roadster a decade later, there is really no comparison, so hopefully they can step up and bring solar shingles to the masses.

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Aiding Musk’s excitement, Rive went on to mention that there are 5 million roofs installed each year and if those new roofs could be made up of solar panels, then “there’s no reason not to go with a power-generating roof.” For those who may need a new roof in the next decade, this could actually be an option.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Musk went on to comment about those homeowners who will soon need a roof. It’s not as if there is a way to avoid the situation, and for those who can afford something that will actually save money, look better, and last longer, it’s somewhat of a no-brainer.

With Dow Chemical having laid the groundwork, it’s not as if Musk and Rive are completely reinventing the wheel. Instead, they are proposing to focus on the one portion of BIPV that benefits residential consumers. Previously too expensive or unfeasible, solar shingles from Tesla could be the missing link.

BIPV vs. Conventional PV Panels

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Currently, conventional PV solar panels are the most dominant solar-powered system in the US and throughout the world, and there is already a vast, exiting infrastructure for such systems. Over the years, they have been tested to function for an impressive 20 or 30 years, and installers have developed routine systems for the installation of the solar panels.

As traditional PV solar panels' efficiency continues to improve, their price also continues to fall, which means more financial flexibility for more middle-class families in the future.

For BIPV, on the other hand, the value is added to the home in a number of ways and solar shingles can actually replace external building materials i.e. asphalt shingles, while also lasting longer than conventional asphalt roofs. In addition, the BIPV option can also much more aesthetically appealing to homeowners and their neighbors.

Currently, the only negative with BIPV, as with any new technology, would be their higher cost. The price may be higher and infrastructure is still in-progress at best. That said, these doubts can also free up possibilities -- the fact that the rebellious and disruptive minds behind Tesla and SolarCity are developing the future of roofing is all the more encouraging! 😉

Thin-Film Solar Laminates for Standing Seam Metal Roofs - Are they still Available?

thin-film-solar-laminates-installation-on-metal-roof

So, yes there is another product that is "sort of" available for standing seam metal roofs. Thin-film photovoltaics are designed for a seamless, peel-and-stick adhesive-style integration with 16 inch wide standing seam metal roofing panels. However, today thin-film solar laminates are not overly wide-spread. In fact, they are no longer being manufactured in the US, because Uni Solar went bankrupt in 2012. However, you can still buy their products on Ebay or Amazon. You would need to get an electrician who would help you get them connected to the inverter, should you decide to buy them.

One disadvantage of thin-film panels, aside from the current lack of availability, is that they have smaller energy generation density or capacity compared to traditional PV panels. For instance, for a utility-interactive PV system, a typical crystalline module would be 170 to 220 W (STC), have an efficiency between 12% and 17%, and measure approximately 3 by 5 feet. An amorphous thin-film module might deliver between 60 and 70 W (STC) with an efficiency between 6% and 8%, and measure about 3 by 3 feet. but their elegant installation may make it a worthwhile investment, provided you have a sufficient degree of solar exposure and roof span/area to justify the installation.


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One comment

  1. The only way to get anywhere close to a fair estimate is to actually call up a solar installer in your area, and get a free quote. The price depends vastly on your energy usage, and your location. Two houses can be neighbors, and one can use 20 times as much electricity. Solar hot water costs $4-6k, after which you may get some rebates or credits. Solar electricity costs $6k and up, after which you may get rebates or credits. A typical system, if there is such a thing, is several times that size, and it is not unheard of to have a system 20 times that large.

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