I’ve gotten a bad case of shingles…

18 Jun

From the “what will they think of next” file:

Yes, I’m building a house out of garbage. Yes, I’m really using shipping containers. In fact the only walls in the entire house are those shipping container skins.

Okay, there may be a few little tiny bearing walls, and possibly a partition wall or two, but you wouldn’t really wanna watch me in the bathroom after eating a case of Hormel’s finest chili, topped with artificial cheese and “double onions” now, would you? I didn’t think so… 🙂

It’s not like I’m crazy or anything… or am I? 🙂

Yes, I tore down an old aircraft hangar (2 actually) and I’m using the steel, the skin, and the bi-fold doors as part of my construction booty.

And yes, we’ll get almost all of our power, hot water, and heat, and all of our A/C as well, from good old Mother Earth.

Why? Because we can, that’s why!

But the roof is gonna have to be “store-bought.” And, as a result of that, I’ve been looking high and low, for a good, efficient solution that was “DIY” installed.

And then I came across “Solar shingles.”

I know it sounds like a skin condition you get after hanging out at the beach too long, but… according to Alternative Energy News, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland have developed flexible solar panels that could be installed on roofs like shingles.

solar-powered-rooftop-shinglesThis technology was originally used to protect flat panel televisions from dampness. They used to cover television screen with transparent, thin films that acted as barriers. These transparent thin film barriers are now becoming the basis for flexible solar panels that would be installed on roofs like shingles. These flexible rooftop solar panels are known as building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPVs. They could replace today’s boxy solar panels. We all know that current solar panels are made with rigid glass or silicon and mounted on thick metal frames. If we compare present solar panels and flexible solar shingles we will find the later ones less expensive to install than current panels and made to last 25 years.

Okay, where can I buy them?

This technology was developed by PNNL in 1990s. They consider utilizing this technology in fifteen possible ways. One of it was solar power. But when Vitex Systems licensed the technology from Battelle, it refocused its goals. They saw potential and commercial success in developing ultra-barrier films for flat-panel displays, such as televisions. Now Vitex and PNNL, which is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy, are reorienting the use of ultra-barrier films. The time might be right for them to exploit the current alternative energy scenario. Mark Gross, a PNNL senior scientist, explains “There’s a lot of wasted space on rooftops that could actually be used to generate power. Flexible solar panels could easily become integrated into the architecture of commercial buildings and homes. Solar panels have had limited success because they’ve been difficult and expensive to install.”

Why do they always have to use words like “exploit?” Yep, “green is good!” Everybody knows that solar is good, but TV is BETTER? I’d like to slap those marketing guys around like Mike Tyson’s speedbags… We could’a had these years ago… Wanna bet they’re gonna be mass produced in China?

The encapsulation process and the ultra-barrier film – called Barix™ Encapsulation and Barix™ Barrier Film, correspondingly – are already established and efficient moisture barriers.

Hey wait… this sounds familiar… Uh-oh… they’re using a proprietary process to manufacture these panels,a process that they’re licensing from another tech company. I read about those  guys. They develop a ground-breaking process, and then sell it’s right’s to the highest bidder, and they rake in millions of bucks, without getting their fingernails dirty. And somebody has to pay the piper…

Hmmm… So much for affordable product.

Now researchers are trying to proof a technology that could be successfully implemented to solar panels. The research work will be undertaken by Vitex and Battelle. It will be done under a cooperative research and development agreement recently signed by Vitex and Battelle. Battelle is the majority shareholder of Vitex, based in San Jose, California. Currently researchers are engaged in creating low-cost flexible barrier films and they are evaluating substrate materials for solar panels that can survive sunshine, rain and hail for decades. They will also work out the details of manufacturing process for large-scale production.

Wait, these are the same guys who only wanted  to use them for TV’s! I bet they’re just going to build “solar powered – outdoor TV’s…” Dammit…

PNNL’s research will be funded by DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technology Commercialization Fund. The estimated cost of the project will be $350,000 . A commercial match to the funding is required, and Vitex will provide up to $350,900 in labor, equipment and materials. If this project is completed successfully, this progression will decrease solar panel manufacturing costs to less than $1 per watt of power, which would be competitive with the 10 cents per kilowatt-hour that a utility would charge.

Oh… they want taxpayer money.. I see… “Grant Me a Grant… and pay me in Benjamin’s…” I get it… I bet Vitex will write off their $350k as “R&D.”

“Vitex is proud to continue its long, successful relationship with PNNL,” said Martin Rosenblum, Vitex’s vice president of operations and engineering. “Vitex is excited to further its Barix™ technology’s proven barrier performance for photovoltaics toward mass manufacturing. Together, we look forward to creating a product that will help alleviate America’s dependence on foreign oil and increase America’s access to an abundant renewable energy source – the sun.”

Translation: “If we can figure out how to get you to pay us to build it, we’ll not only build it, we’ll sell it to you… but not wholesale! After all, you gotta make power, to use our TV’s!”  🙂

Don’t you just wish one of these “tech companies” would actually develop and deliver some of this geekware priced affordably enough so that the average joe could afford it? I suspect that it’ll be years before we see any of this stuff, and it’ll be priced so high that we can only see it on those “tweak” homes on Cable TV specials! Argh!

Oh well… back to the drawing board… Where’d I put my crayons?

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin


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4 Responses to “I’ve gotten a bad case of shingles…”

  1. Randy Zechman June 19, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    We at Clean Solar are one of the top solar installers serving the Bay area, and one of the many “start ups” dedicated to creating a greener environment with solar energy, and not to mention, helping consumers cut expenses with cheaper alternative energy source, and being able to sell power back to the grid is definitely one of the prime value propositions. Please visit our website, http://www.cleansolar.com to learn more about our company. Thank You!

  2. Chicken Coop July 2, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    great post(why i keep getting an error when i try to subscribe to your feed)?thanks

    • renaissanceronin July 2, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

      Hey CC,

      Thanks. I’m not sure why you’re having a problem. It seems to be working at MY end. Anybody else out there having a prob?

  3. teng July 3, 2009 at 10:34 pm #

    That was a nice read.

Comments are closed.