Dow Solar lands DOE grant: Can integrated solar building materials go mainstream?

The Department of Energy is looking to kick start the development of solar power that's built into materials like shingles.

Dow Chemical's solar unit, Dow Solar, said Friday that it has landed a Department of Energy grant to developed so-called building integrated solar products.

Building integrated solar (BIPV) aims to build solar functionality directly into building materials as opposed to installing panels as add-ons.

The grant, $12.8 million over three years, is designed to cut the costs of residential solar power systems. The aim is to boost adoption. The Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot initiative is funding a $22.4 million program to create solar technology that can lower installation costs in homes.

The DOE awarded more than $145 million for advanced solar technologies
on Thursday. The news comes as the government took a few lumps over the bankruptcy of Solyndra , a high profile solar investment that went belly up.

It's safe to say that Dow Solar is a much safer bet. Dow Solar, with partners ranging from home builder DR Horton, Purdue, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and others, will initially focus on integrating BIPV shingles. Lower cost systems can bring solar installation costs down without subsidies.

The focus on shingles is a natural fit for Dow, which will launch solar shingles later this year.

BIPV is an interesting avenue to pursue. If the average roofer can install solar shingles, installation costs are likely to fall. Other building materials could also advance solar adoption.



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