The Climate Spectator has a look at the upcoming launch of Dow's "solar shingles" roofing product - A new direction for American solar ?.
As Dow Chemical prepares to launch its solar shingle in 2011, Wall Street is hopeful the product will push the largest US chemical maker into an entirely new, lucrative market.
Dow expects its solar shingle, which installs on roofs like ordinary shingles but can generate electricity from sunlight, to net $US1 billion in revenue by 2015 in a roughly $US5 billion market.
Dow reported 2009 revenue of $US44.88 billion.
More than revenue, though, is the opportunity for Dow to move beyond its image as just a chemical company, albeit the largest in the United States, and help push solar power to a broad segment of the American population that for years has eschewed it as too expensive and cumbersome.
"Obviously, looking at where energy prices are today and the high-double-digit growth rate that solar's been exhibiting, it's clearly a product that should have appeal," said Hassan Ahmed, a chemical analyst at Alembic Global Advisors.
The company declined to provide the per-unit cost for its shingle, which connects in series on slanted roofs and feeds direct current to a converter box, where it is turned into alternating current.
However, Dow executives estimate that it could cost about $US6,000 to install a solar shingle system that provides half of an average home's power. That figure takes into account a 30 per cent federal tax solar rebate and local and state rebates, which widely vary. New Jersey, for instance, has a large solar rebate program.
The $US6,000 figure seems low, according to Rob Stone, a solar industry analyst with Cowen & Co, compared with the industry average of about $10,000 for solar installation.
"Dow's own materials basically say you can pay off the cost of putting on your solar shingles in about 10 years," he said. "That's a little bit on the longish end of the payback that people generally expect. Probably a seven-year payback is generally the sweet spot."