The familiar conventional solar panel that springs to mind when someone mentions solar power could be replaced by the new trend of integrating solar technology into buildings. The increasing popularity for building integrated photovoltaics is aided by the advances in microgeneration technology including solar roof tiles, shingles and even special sheeting that can be incorporated into other building materials which is coated in layers of atomised photovoltaic material.
Photovoltaics have been developed and improved over many years and are available for many uses including power supplies to charge leisure batteries for caravans, boats and motorhomes as well as for conventional use on domestic and industrial roofs. As the search for more sustainable sources of energy generation are sought to help ease the problems of peak oil and decreasing sources of energy generation such as fossil fuels, microgeneration from renewable energy sources such as wind power, geothermal energy and solar energy could be a crucial step to prevent blackouts and energy shortages for future generations.
Solar panels have been criticised in the past for not being the most attractive addition to domestic roofs, and this is where the popularity of products such as solar tiles and other technology that can be integrated into a building stands out. Solar tiles take up less space than the normal solar panels used to harvest the sun’s energy and are built into the main roof in place of conventional roofing materials. The other bonus with the new technology is that solar tiles are available in a wide range of colours which enables easier building-integration into an existing roof or colour matching to a new-build.
The technology that is used to turn energy from the sun’s rays into electricity is the same as that used in conventional solar panels, and it is built into ceramic tiles or shingles that are then mounted on the house in place of standard building materials as normal. The energy generated by the solar cells would then be fed into the house and the energy would usually charge up a bank of batteries which would then provide the house with the electricity needed for daily life. A demonstration site in California fitted with solar roof tiles covering approx 90 square meters could be expected to provide 2400KWh of electricity each year according to manufacturers of a solar tile product that incorporates a flexible solar cell made from silicon in their products.
Microgeneration can not only help you reduce your energy bills, but a number of UK energy companies also offer ‘buy back’ schemes, such as Ecotricity’s Renewable Rewards scheme. If you generate your own renewable energy you can sell back any surplus that you don’t use and receive a payment for the energy you generate, usually in exchange for the ROCs you receive from Ofgem.