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Solar slates

Government green energy tariffs planned for next April are likely to see demand for solar slates increase. Hattie Hartman compares three products

When it comes to renewables, one of the more appealing products on the market is the solar roof tile, compatible with both slates and clay tiles.

Because solar tiles are an ‘in roof’ rather than an ‘on roof’ solution, they are much less visually obtrusive. Solar Century’s C21e won Interbuild’s Best Exterior Product award in 2004. Competitors have been surpisingly slow to enter the market, and there are currently only three tiles readily available in the UK, with a fourth on its way.

This is all about to change with the Government’s long awaited introduction of feed in tariffs in April 2010. Nu-lok managing director Wayne Mills notes that in the last year his company has seen its market shift from predominantly roofing to 80% enquiries related to solar installations. Solar Century’s sales doubled this year with about 70% of its tiles sold directly to volume housebuilders and the remainder distributed through builders’ outlets. The retrofit market is also likely to increase, with solar tiles as an attractive alternative when a new roof is installed.

Cost, appearance and ease of installation are the three main considerations in selecting a tile. Solar tiles are about 15% more expensive than the bolt-on ‘on roof’ equivalent, though their cost is partially offset in newbuild by the savings on roofing tiles.

Ease of installation is critical. Nu-lok advocates a ‘one stop shop’ approach for system design and installation, and has recently acquired a PV installation company in order to launch Nu-Sustainable which will do just that. Solar Century’s tile is fitted using standard battens and clips available from any builders’ merchants and can be installed either by a specialist PV engineer or a general contractor.

Any solar tile product should be listed on the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.


Below are three solar slate product studies:

Heritage Solar Slate

Heritage Solar Slate

The Heritage Solar Slate uses a high-efficiency ‘back contact’ cell, which means no lines are visible on the front of the tile, enabling a constant colour. No specialist trade is required for installation. The back of each slate has a push-fit connector to link to the next slate. The tiles are sand-blasted to resemble slates.

Manufacturer:PV Systems
Size: 500mm x 252mm x 6mm
Weight: 1.8kg
kW peak/m²: 152W/m²
Cell type: Monocrystalline
Components: Low-iron glass with proprietary surface finish, anodised aluminium back and edge
Fitting method: Same as conventional roofing slates, secured with roofing hooks
Warranty: Limited performance warranty 20 years to 80 per cent output
Manufactured: Wales
Start date of UK distribution: 2009


Nu-lok SMT 5, Reflective Glass

NU-Lok SMT 5

Nu-Lok can manufacture bespoke pieces for awkward roof conditions and match the backing colour of the 3M film to existing roof slates. Recently specified on a Grade II-listed church in Islington, London. An in-house PV engineer wires the panels alongside a roofing contractor. A reflective finish on the panels is optional.

Size: 1,200 x 400 x 5mm
Weight: 13kg
kW peak/m²: 114W/m²
Cell type: Monocrystalline
Components: 4mm toughene glass, 1mm tedlar backing
Fitting method: Direct to Nu-lok battens
Warranty: 25 years
Manufactured: UK
Start date of UK distribution: 2001


Solar Century C21E

Solar Century C21E

One solar tile covers the area of four conventional tiles. The nib of a tile hooks on to a roof batten and is screwed into place, as is standard practice. The slates are linked with simple push-fit connections, and electrical leads are passed into the space at the end of the roof.

Manufacturer:Solar Century
Size: 1,200mm x 300mm x 14mm (exposed)
Finishes: Non-reflective
Weight: 5kg
kW peak/m²: 143W/m²
Cell type: Monocrystalline
Components: Laminated solar glass in aluminium frame
Fitting method: Fit to standard wooden battens per traditional roofing practice
Warranty: 25 years
Manufactured: UK
Start date of UK distribution: 2008

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