Conventional solar panels are heavy, bulky, and breakable, which makes them expensive to transport and install. Installation cost has been one of the largest parts of the overall cost of rooftop solar system. An average rooftop solar system in California costs US$6.14 per watt, while some solar panels sell for less than US$1 a watt in many cases.
Willow glass solar shingles are lightweight and could be nailed to a roof in place of conventional shingles. It would simplify the installation and reduce overall cost. Also, unlike other solar shingles making from plastic, Willow glass is very good at sealing out the solar elements from air and moisture, which helps solar cells last for decades.
Willow glass also makes it possible to use cadmium telluride as the solar cell material. This is the only material that’s been able to successfully challenge conventional silicon solar cells at a large, commercial scale. Cadmium telluride solar cells need to be made on a transparent material. Other flexible, transparent materials either can’t handle the high temperatures needed to make the solar cells, or they block too much light, reducing efficiency.
Willow glass solar cell is still in the proof-of-concept status. There are still a way from commercialization. In addition to improving efficiency, it will be necessary to develop a manufacturing process and equipments to handle larger flexible solar cells.