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Solar Laminates


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Jelly's Forum Posts: 55
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By Jelly in Baton Rouge, LA on 8/28/2009


I've been looking into a solar-laminate system. This is a thin film which you place in strips on your standing-seam roof. I think it looks so much better than having a giant panel plopped down on your roof. The laminate strips allow you to actually work them into the aesthetic design of the house. Anyone have any experience or knowledge about them to share?

If you want to check them out, they're made by UNI-SOLAR

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By Grant in Blacksburg, VA on 8/31/2009


I've looked into the thin film and considered it myself. One key hesitation for most homeowners: you use more of your precious solar-roof space for less power generation. The "giant panels" generate more power per square foot of surface area. 

Another bonus of the "giant panels" is that they mount above and actually provide shaded air flow to help cool the roof. Furthermore, anything that adheres well enough to stay on in storms would seem to me to create a future maintenance difficulty. It's relatively simple to bolt and unbolt "giant panels" attached to the standing-seam roof.

Ultimately "function" is winning out over "form" for me. Luckily, the panels will be facing the backyard and will be "unseen" by my neighbors.


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By Rachal in Janesville, CA on 9/1/2009


I also am very interested in solar laminates. I am going to talk to a solar guy next week about them. I have been having a very tough time finding anyone who will talk to me about solar in my area. Network, network, network.

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By Jelly in Baton Rouge, LA on 9/6/2009


Rachal, check out this website:

Solar sphere online

They did a free evaluation for me, and even put together a hypothetical do-it-yourself package for me to consider.

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By Rachal in Janesville, CA on 9/7/2009


I talked to a guy about solar laminates and he said they are mainly used for flat-metal roofs. My roof is not flat. We then talked about other types of solar and I got a lot of good information about net metering and more. 

I'll look at your site and see what it's about. 

Thanks

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By Grant in Blacksburg, VA on 9/7/2009


I'm not sure what you mean by "flat." The strips of most solar laminates are designed to fit into the troughs (for example 16" wide) of the "standing seams" on the metal roof. Of course, the roof can be pitched, and you will actually get a higher-energy output with an ideal slope for your location. I am planning the slope of my roof specifically for the ideal solar gain in my area.
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By Rachal in Janesville, CA on 9/7/2009


The troughs on my roof are 8". The solar guy said this was not standard. This is where prior planning would have come in handy. At the time, I bought the metal roof that I could afford. So I guess I can't have everything. My roof is also in the perfect location for full-day sun. I'll probably look into other alternatives down the road.

The solar guy suggested free-standing panels on my property. I have 12 acres, so space is not an issue.

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By Grant in Blacksburg, VA on 9/9/2009


OK... I get the problem now. I've seen the 8" trough standing-seam roofs before. Frequently they have broadly rounded "corrugations" as well.

Are the standing seams stout enough to clamp panels onto, or are they too rounded and incapable of connecting a clamp?

For the benefit of other readers of this thread, as I understand it, the 16" trough standing-seam troughs can permit a solar laminate to be placed in the trough OR can also provide the option of being able to clamp solar panels directly to the standing seams. I also need to mount my solar-hot-water panels to the roof, and they will need to be clamped on.

In researching this in advance for my own house, I'm planning on making my roof pitch ideal for the solar-panel pitch, and clamping the panels directly to the roof without needing expensive framing racks to set the angle and to mount the panels. This set-up will also give me the flexibility of attaching newer (higher energy production) technologies directly to the roof when/if upgrading makes financial sense in the future. I will select my metal-roof system based upon these capabilities that will save me money overall.

I wish Rachal had found The O-B Book and website earlier in her project.  This is the kind of value in advanced planning that is stressed so repeatedly. This exact topic, of choosing and designing a roof for solar-panel mounting, was covered in one of my past forum threads and I found much of the information I used to make my decisions in prior forum threads. I learned that I would actually save more money by purchasing a more-expensive roofing style, but eliminating the even more-expensive mounting racks for the solar-hot-water panels.

Although I have a lot of land as well, I want my panels on the roof to prevent having to remove more trees from the property, AND because I don't want panels impacting my landscaping choices.


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 9/9/2009


I think the key with solar, to make it look good, is solar has to be a design element. As an example, look at the Solar Decathlon houses. The first year (2002), solar was definitely an add-on for many of the teams. Subsequent years, solar has been a design element included in the aesthetics and architectural design of the house itself. Perhaps many people probably don't like the aesthetics of the Solar Decathlon houses, myself I find them fantastic (as a fan of modern starchitecture anyway).

Actually I like these for other reasons as well. Great design, liveable, panelized construction (with potential for easy pre-fab construction in quality-controlled factories off site), small size (perhaps too much so, but for what they are...). Granted, square foot price will probably knock you over, but what do you expect from engineering schools using the latest and greatest technology? Good design costs money, but good design eliminates waste as well, the key is to find happy tradeoff where good design saves you money overall (including scrapping the state-of-the-art technology for off-the-shelf proven technology instead, but so much less fun).


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By Small Timber Frame in Central Mass, MA on 10/21/2009


Grant,

Thin-film laminates have some distinct advantages over the standard-solar cells made with crystalline silicon. 

  • If you break the standard cells, you're done. Thin film is more forgiving in a hailstorm, etc.
  • Thin film tends to perform better on cloudy days, and at the beginning and end of each day, or at least it maintains its efficiency better during those times.
Where you guys live, efficiency shouldn't be such a big deal; you've got lots of sun most of the time. There's no reason why you can't mount the thin-film panels to another panel and use it as you describe using the standard panels. If I recall correctly, the cost per watt for thin film and standard is comparable, and the thin film "may" even be lower cost.  Haven't looked in awhile, but when I go solar, I'll probably use thin film. 

One other note: if you're concerned about "embodied energy," I believe thin film is much lower than standard in that regard.

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