Solar Power Goes Thin and Flexible

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Solar power has long been a mainstay of alternative energy, but in recent years the field has suffered from a certain lethargy

The innovative company Google, dismayed over the stagnation, decided to get into the field itself by designing solar thermal mirrors and solar-powered gas turbines. Google hasn’t unveiled its inventions yet, but in the meantime, it turns out we have some interesting new solar technologies to admire.

According to ICIS, Dow Chemical just announced a new product, the DOW POWERHOUSE Solar Shingle, a crafty device that can turn your entire house into a little power plant. The shingles, which can be interspersed with regular asphalt shingles on a roof, are an average of 10 percent less expensive than regular roof-top solar panels. The system will set a homeowner back about $27,000.

Dow Chemical anticipates that their green innovation will pull in another kind fo green. The company estimates banking $5 billion by 2015 and as much as $11 billion by 2020 with these little beauties.

ICIS quotes Jane Palmieri, managing director of Dow Solar Solutions, stating that these are the next big thing in solar: “Solar panels have many restrictions and are just not affordable to be used in any meaningful way, but we believe our product will change that paradigm.”

But what about this other new solar invention, Power Plastic, a solar panel that looks like a big spool of photographic film? Fortune reports that the product is light, cheap and so flexible it can be put anywhere.

The film’s creator, solar-power upstart Konarka, already sells pieces of Power Plastic big enough to recharge a cellphone or an iPod, to be used on beach umbrellas and tote bags. Ultimately, though, a translucent version will allow the windows of a skyscraper to power the whole building or the pockets of solar-powered clothing to charge electronics.

The future of solar, it seems, is as thin and flexible as our society’s willingness to confront the inconvenient truth. Here’s hoping the former helps with the latter.

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