Call them a new generation of residential solar panels … or, better yet, call them what they are being dubbed: solar shingles.
Whatever you call them a new wave of residential roofing products are becoming available in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area that seamlessly integrate generation of solar power into your home.
These products turn your home into a mini power plant, generating electricity used in the home and, in many states including Minnesota, generating power that can be sold to your utility to add a credit to your electrical bill.
While part of the advancement is technical — thinner, more flexible solar cells — the key for homeowners is these roofing products look and act like other roofing material.
They are installed like any other shingle by regular roofing contractors who don’t require special training. The shingles naturally adhere to one another to pass electricity between them, meaning there are no wires required for individual shingles.
Instead, they combine to output electricity through a single wire no matter how large an area they cover. The larger the area the more electricity is generated.
The electrical output feeds an “inverter” box connected to your home’s wiring to convert the DC current the cells generate to AC current you home uses.
This same connection also allows excess power generated — say while the home is dormant during the day — to be fed into the local power grid and sold to your utility.
Creating that connection point does require an electrician.
Because solar shingles are installed like any other shingle the installation costs are approximately the same. While the shingles do cost more federal tax incentives, and any state and local incentives, combine with lower electrical cost to provide a break-even point as well as a return on the original investment.
In Part 2 of our Solar Shingles In Minneapolis St. Paul post we will take a closer look at using solar shingles in the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area.
Here’s a Consumer Reports video review of the shingles: