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Solar Roofing Grabs the Light

As consumers increasingly demand conservation minded building materials, companies are rolling out new products.

On the horizon: A novel solar roofing system with appeal for homeowners. Its shingles and tiles incorporate photovoltaic materials that convert sunlight into volts. The palette of colors and styles available range from flat slabs to curvy mansard tiles and will go a long way toward ameliorating concerns of homeowner associations that ban conventional, bulky solar panels that squat on rooftops.

The new systems offer more than better aesthetics. They’re also more flexible, so they can cover entire roofs, including eaves, porches and irregular spaces, to capture more power. That translates into more hours each year when residents may be able to get by without buying electricity from the local power company or even sell electricity to the utility and watch the meter run backward.

Dow Chemical will soon roll out solar shingles, offering an additional advantage to would-be buyers: They can be installed by any roofing contractor on a new or existing roof. An electrician is needed only for the final plug-in, reducing the overall installation cost. Other companies, such as Lumeta, OkSolar.com, SRS Energy, SunPower and Suntech, offer similar power generating shingles and tiles, but an electrician is needed to wire each one.

All systems funnel the direct current produced by photovoltaic materials into an inverter box in the house, which converts the juice to alternating current.

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