March 07, 2013 - Dow Chemical said Thursday it has bought NuvoSun, which developed a thin film technology that Dow will use for its solar roof.
Dow, which made equity investments in NuvoSun over a 3-year period, closed the purchase of the startup on Feb. 28, said Dow spokeswoman Kate Nigro. She declined to disclose the purchase price. Greentech Media first reported the acquisition on Wednesday.
Dow took an interest in NuvoSun's technology because Dow had been planning to roll out shingles embedded with solar cells for many years. After some delays, Dow began selling the solar shingles in 2011, first in Colorado and later in California and Texas.
The company has since expanded the sales of the solar shingles to the East Coast and lined up NEXUS EnergyHomes as a customer.
Dow hopes to attract homeowners who need to replace their roofs and want to use clean power at the same time. In some cases, homeowners who have high utility bills — because they use a lot of power and are billed at higher rates than people with lower monthly electricity use — may save money over time by going solar.
The looks of the solar shingles may also be a selling point. Conventional solar panels require racks to prop them up, and the color of the solar cells is usually different than the color of the roof.
Whether solar shingles will become popular remains to be seen. The price of conventional solar panels is declining because more manufacturers entered the market in recent years and competition became more intense. Most of the solar panels for sale today contain cells made with silicon, which can convert a higher percentage of the sunlight into electricity than what Dow's shingles are able to do.
Founded in 2008, NuvoSun's technology uses copper, indium, gallium and selenium to convert sunlight into electricity. The compound and the manufacturing process involved make it possible to create ultra thin and flexible solar cells. Silicon solar cells are thicker and prone to breakage if they are not protected by glass.
NuvoSun's founder, Dave Pearce, told me in early 2012 that his California company was gearing up to ship its cells to Dow. Pearce started another solar company before NuvoSun, and that company, MiaSole, has since been sold to China-based Hanergy.