Back from the dead? New deal could revive Dow solar shingles

Could current market conditions finally allow the Dow Powerhouse Shingle to capture enough marketshare to thrive? Apparently, RGS Energy thinks so.

In an exclusive agreement, RGS has signed a domestic and international licensing agreement that will revive the Dow brand that appeared to have died a slow, painful death after it couldn’t gain sufficient traction against more traditional solar electricity systems.

Long before Elon Musk launched Tesla’s Solar Roof, Dow announced with much fanfare in 2009 that its Powerhouse Solar Shingles system would revolutionize how consumers purchased and installed solar systems.

Unfortunately, the system never quite caught on, being installed in only 1,000 homes before Dow pulled the plug on the venture. Dow sold the remaining manufacturing equipment to an unknown buyer and the Powerhouse website went dark, with the Lorax-like note saying it would cease manufacturing the product.

pv magazine pronounced the product dead on December 15, 2016, and never expected to be writing about it again. But RGS is bringing its commercial marketing prowess, including supply chain management, marketing, sales, installation and warranty servicing, to the deal – and it believes the time is right.

In an effort that stayed well under the radar, Dow’s engineering team started designing Powerhouse 3.0 solar shingles in 2015. The most significant change is that the system now uses traditional silicon solar cells rather than CIGS thin-film technology, which the company says has significantly reduced the cost while improving panel efficiency.

Currently, RGS and Dow say the product is in the final stages of receiving Underwriters Laboratories certification, which they anticipate will be finalized in the first quarter. The parntership is already taking pre-orders on the RGS and Dow anticipate UL product certification during the first quarter of 2018 and are taking pre-orders in advance of final written certification, after which RGS will begin selling and installing the system.

What makes the deal particularly interesting is what RGS perceives is a potentially lucrative market outside of the United States, citing a BBC Research study that found the global market for building-integrated PV (BIPV) will grow from $2.5 billion last year to $4.3 billion by 2021. RGS says the Powerhouse shingles will be part of that growth.

“This enhanced Powerhouse 3.0 system comes at an opportune time,” said Dennis Lacey, CEO of RGS Energy. “At an increasing rate, goals and targets are being set for renewable energy. Some localities are mandating solar for new build homes. Customers also increasingly want their solar installations to be an aesthetic and technical improvement integrated with a home renovation, rather than a hefty module that is bolted onto their rooftop. We believe the Powerhouse 3.0 solar shingles fulfills this need.”

“We are very pleased to partner with RGS Energy for the commercialization of our Powerhouse 3.0 product,” said Kirk Thompson, Business Director of Dow Solar. “We believe that RGS is well positioned to optimize the market potential for Powerhouse 3.0 solar shingles system. The design of Powerhouse 3.0 solar shingles addresses the critical requirements of customers and installers and achieves a price point that will be very competitive.

In an environment where a trade case is currently being adjudicated by the U.S. International Trade Commission that has the potential to reduce the supply of traditional photovoltaic modules to solar installers with an emphasis on domestic job creation, the following note tacked on to the end of the press release – seemingly almost as an afterthought – can’t be ignored:

The commercialization of Powerhouse 3.0 solar shingles is expected to generate jobs in the United States.

With the revival of Dow’s Powerhouse solar shingle system, there might finally be an answer to the age old question of whether there really is life after death.