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The Future of Solar Shingles

Photo by Maximillian Conacher on Unsplash

Solar energy has become the face of renewable energy, alongside other resources like wind and geothermal power. Its efficiency and eco-friendliness make solar a standout for the energy industry. Most commonly, you’ll see solar panels popping up in places where renewable energy is used. Lowered costs mean people have access to implement them on all scales, including residential and commercial. More recently, however, solar shingles have entered the playing field. These shingles mimic the traditional roofing materials countless houses and buildings have across the world.

The future of solar shingles is bright — they could become just as successful as panels, pushing the sustainability movement forward. 

History of Solar Energy

Solar energy is relatively new in comparison to other resources like coal and oil. The origins of using panels to capture the sun’s light and energy first began in the 1950s. The development of cells was what first catapulted the idea into the realm of possibilities. Using a solar cell to capture the sunlight opened up the world to generating electricity in a new, clean way.

Solar panels slowly began to grow in popularity, but compared to fossil fuels, this renewable had a rocky start. Getting the world to focus on fossil fuels as a source of the worsening climate crisis has been a feat of its own. Getting solar panels to become an affordable option has also taken several years. 

Using solar power for residential areas and buildings could save the world $259 billion from climate change-based damage. Moreover, putting the planet on a cleaner, healthier path is of the utmost importance. Now, solar shingles, which are even newer than panels, are helping the world along that path. 

Solar shingles are powerful and practical. They could change solar power and renewable energy as you know it. However, before that can happen, this sector will need to make some changes. 


How Do Solar Shingles Work

Solar shingles came about in the early 2000s. The manufacturing corporation Dow Chemical Company had been working with Powerhouse to produce solar shingles and make them available to the public. However, Dow halted production of these shingles, discouraging any growth. At this time, the focus was still on solar panels. 

Luckily, the current Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, saw potential in rooftop solar tiles. He began investing in these roofing materials, breathing new life into their development. Since then, they have been on a steady rise, striving to be a central part of the renewable energy conversation. 

Though still not as popular as solar panels, the shingles are a practical option for homeowners and businesses. They’re part of a field of solar energy called building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), which is when contractors build solar cells right into the structure of a home or building.

In the home, you can install them as you would normal, non-PV shingles — as the entire rooftop or as a part of it. They’re flat and absorb the sun’s rays and energy in the same way panels do. 

They consist of a few layers. On the outside, there is tempered glass that protects the inner layers and helps carry the sun’s heat. Then, the inside has a layer of the solar cell and a thin film to pull sunlight into the actual shingle. While these components are similar to those of a solar panel, the two energy solutions differ in a few ways.

Pros and Cons of Solar Shingles

With the rise of a new resource comes some innovative advantages, plus some drawbacks that will need future improvements. For one, the aesthetic presents a significant advantage over solar panels. People may reject panels due to their visible presence, but solar shingles are flat and mimic the home’s design, blending right in.

Another potential advantage is the shingles’ life span. Most solar panels have an average life span of 25 years, whereas Tesla originally claimed a 30-year life span for its solar roof tiles. The company then reduced its claim to 25 years, perhaps since shingles are still too uncommon to have a definite answer.

However, shingles are easier and cheaper to replace than an entire solar panel. This ease means the roofing tiles will likely outlast standard solar panels. 

Conversely, shingles are still expensive, whereas solar panels are dropping in cost every year. To get shingles to have the same kind of reduction, residents and businesses will need to start normalizing them more. As of now, solar shingles can cost upward of $60,000 for a full residential roof. Solar panels cost less than that at around $25,000 or less for residents.

Into the Future of Solar Renewables

Moving forward, solar shingles have some work to do. They’re exceedingly practical for homeowners building a home or redoing their roofing. People can start from scratch right away with sustainable solar shingles. However, panels are currently more practical for those who aren’t making any roofing changes.

Though panels and tiles can coexist, tiles still must become less expensive. The price is the key factor manufacturers and developers must focus on for the future of solar power. Then, with shingles having lower costs, panels and shingles can work simultaneously to bring homes and businesses to their full renewable potential. 


Shingles are a gateway to opening up the BIPV field to expand across cities and countries. Working solar cells into roofs is just the beginning. They can integrate into the sides of buildings and even windows. Electricity generation can now originate from an abundance of locations without taking up more space. Shingles can normalize this trend. 

The overall goal of reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuels is more necessary than ever. When homeowners and businesses have more options for switching to renewables, that accessibility pushes the world to a healthier and more environmentally friendly place. 

The Solar Road Ahead

From the previous strides of solar panels dating back to the 1950s, solar shingles are now a viable solution for renewable energy. With more normalization and use, they will become cheaper and more practical for the average homeowner. 

Sustainability requires fast action. The climate crisis is worsening with the constant use of fossil fuels. With solar cells integrating into homes and buildings like never before, these shingles are a major step in the right direction. 

Working together, panels and tiles can pave the way for cells to become an integral part of societies across the world. 

Author bio: Rose Morrison is the managing editor of Renovated, where she covers home improvement and construction topics. She is especially passionate about sustainability trends in these industries.

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