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Right now, when you fly into a typical American city, you see miles of black roofs (mostly tarpaper shingles, made with a byproduct from burning coal), flanked by green lawns. But to me and my colleagues, those black roofs look like a vast untapped market.

After fighting a roofer for 14 months (he never stopped the leaks or installed a roof that would meet inspection), the last place I want solar is on my roof. How do you walk on that roof? What happens when (not if) it leaks after, say, 15 years? That's a 30 year solar installation -- or so the industry says.

I thought in 2008 that the big residential winner was going to have technology like Alyce's pick. There would be tracking of the sun to maximize efficiency and minimize the cell/ownership cost. The capture device would be dish shaped in order to focus the sunlight on a central point where a very high efficiency cell -- like Boeing's Spectrolab's 39.2% efficient cells -- would turn it into electricity. Why cover a whole roof when a reflective device (like the satellite TV dish of 1980 vintage) could do the job next to the house? It would limit the footprint, not confuse the function of the roof by making it a multi-function place, and allow expensive cells like Boeing's to be used economically.

I think SunPower's in lab efficiency of 24.2% would put them in the running for a non-roof, dish-based, tracking system solar installation. None announced yet...

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