As climate concerns grow, more consumers turn to renewable sources of energy. One of the fastest-growing instances of renewables is solar power, largely due to its convenience for consumers. Through technologies like solar roofing, homeowners can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels without much trouble.
Dennis Schroeder / NREL
Solar roofing is more accessible now than it ever has been. The average cost of solar cells has nearly halved since 2014, making them a viable option for a higher number of people. As solar roofing continues to grow, new technological trends are emerging.
Perhaps the most prevalent growing trend in solar roofing is the growth of solar shingles. These components are a kind of building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) technology, which is an infrastructure that serves both a structural and solar-gathering purpose. With these shingles, the roof itself harnesses solar power instead of external panels.
Solar shingles have a similar appearance to traditional roofing material, so they blend in with a house's design. At the moment, solar shingles are more expensive than conventional panels, but further advancement may change that. As prices drop with new technology, solar shingle adoption will likely increase, like solar power itself did.
Solar skins turn solar panels into miniature billboards, allowing users to display custom patterns or images. The opportunities this presents for brands is obvious, but it can also appeal to consumers. Using solar skins, homeowners can install solar panels without drastically altering the appearance of their homes.
Solar skins are little more than thin layers of printable material that allow light to pass through. Consumers can use these skins to help their solar panels blend into their roofs without sacrificing efficiency. This middle ground between aesthetics and functionality is crucial for solar roofing to break into a broader market.
Glazing, another example of BIPV technology, involves solar cells so thin that they're semi-transparent. While consumers can use it in a fashion similar to solar skins, they can also employ it to create photovoltaic windows. For solar roofing, this would mean applications like skylights that let sunlight through while gathering solar power.
This technology increases the versatility of solar roofing, enabling homeowners to harness energy with a broader range of applications. One downside to glazing is that it's not as efficient a power source as other instances of solar collection. Since electricity costs rise by 5% each year, though, every bit of energy dependence is still helpful.
Solar roofing in the future may expand to temporary housing as well. Researchers have developed a photovoltaic fabric, which has applications in both clothing and construction. Roofing structures like awnings or tents see considerable amounts of sunlight, making them ideal areas to gather solar energy.
This solar fabric could allow temporary structures like tents to gather and store energy. Permanent housing could benefit from it too since many buildings use fabric coverings in structures like awnings. With photovoltaic fabric, the possible applications of solar roofing expand even further.
Solar Technology Is Always Advancing
Solar roofing is already far more prevalent than in past years, and this trend will only continue. Technology tends to increase at an exponential rate, so as time goes on, more photovoltaic advancements will emerge. With more solar tech will come more convenience and efficiency, leading to higher renewable energy production.
Many of these technologies listed above aren't widespread yet, but present significant potential. As manufacturers and scientists refine and improve them, they'll see higher adoption rates, and could soon become the new standard. It's challenging to predict the exact turn technology trends will take, but the future of solar roofing looks bright.