Rooftop solar panels can provide environmentally friendly benefits to home and building owners. Solar panels are green, in that they absorb sunlight and turn it into energy. For this reason, solar panels are attractive to many people.
According to the US Department of Energy, solar capacity now is ten times what it was a decade ago. Much of the demand is now driven by “grid parity” – which essentially means that energy produced by a clean source (solar, wind) costs the same or less than energy produced “on the grid” with coal or natural gas. So, rooftop solar systems can be economically viable as well as environmentally beneficial.
The growing and changing solar market has prompted lots of product innovation. Still most common are the traditional solar panels that are installed in racks on top of a roof. But an emerging alternative for steep slope roofs is solar shingles or tiles. These roofing products have the solar technology actually built into them so, essentially, the roof itself becomes the solar panel. Many steep-slope solar tiles only cover a section of the roof but some, like Tesla’s new solar roof, are intended to be installed as the entire roof. They can be used in any application where traditional shingles would be used – residential or commercial.
Roofs like Tesla’s and others could be a glimpse into the future. Solar energy is being pushed more and more, and California will require solar panels on all new homes and buildings beginning in 2020. Solar shingles’ efficiency is still lacking compared to rack-mounted solar panels, but the technology and curb appeal continue to improve significantly. This will make them a great option for homes, because they look natural (better than large solar panels) and could be easier to install. If efficiency, aesthetics and cost improvements continue, solar tiles could be as common as asphalt shingles are today.