Roof strong enough to support solar power panels

BY SCOT MACKAY
Last updated 05:00 16/06/2010
Southland Times photo
NICOLE GOURLEY/The Southland Times
TOUGH ON TOP: Calder Stewart sales and marketing manager Mike Tou (left) and research and design engineer Jim Fensom show off their new roof design that can support solar panels without extra strengthening.

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A Southland business is hoping its new roof design will help provide people with a cheaper alternative to power supply in the future.

Calder Stewart has designed a roof profile that is strong enough to hold photovoltaic laminate without extra support.

Research and design engineer Jim Fensom said the laminate was similar to the common aluminium-framed solar panel and worked by absorbing solar radiation.

Unlike common solar panels, the laminate lay flat on a roof and was increasing in popularity because it was "virtually indestructible" and could be used in overcast conditions, he said.

However, the laminate had not been a preferred option for powering a home because of the added cost of strengthening a roof to hold it, he said.

Calder Stewart sales and marketing manager Mike Tou said the cost of putting additional support in the average roof to install the laminate was about $4000, but its roof design did not need the added support and made the laminate a viable option for a cheap source of electricity. It was also basically invisible compared to the common bulky solar panels, he said.

"Looks-wise they are pleasing to the eye," he said.

The pair believed their roof design was a world first and the company had a patent for it in New Zealand and a pending patent in Australia.

Mr Fensom said only a couple of homes in Southland and Otago had the photovoltaic laminate installed on the roof, but about 20 homes had the roof profile and the laminate could be installed at any point in the future.

Calder Stewart began designing the roof profile in 2007 and after years of trials is selling it commercially.

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- The Southland Times

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