When it comes to sustainable energy, solar power is a popular method in theory, but one that has been difficult and expensive to implement.

Last month researchers presented a report to the American Chemical Society stating that if every home rooftop in the country had a solar panel they would generate half of the electricity the U.S. uses each year. The price of solar panels has dropped significantly in recent years, but it's still too expensive to easily implement across the entire country. This may change soon, however, thanks to a new cheap and lightweight alternative: solar shingles.

Dow already offers the PowerHouse Solar Shingle, a thin-film photovoltaic power cell that takes the place of traditional roofing materials. According to Dow, their solar shingles will last as long as you house does ad will actually save you money in the long run by turning your house into a safe power-plant.

PowerHouse Solar Shingles are made from copper indium gallium diselenide, an expensive material mostly controlled by China, and cost more than conventional roofing materials. However, the company claims that each $1 invested in solar shingles will yield $4 in saved electricity.

But wait, it gets better. According to James Stevens of Dow Chemical and Harry Atwater, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, who recently presented their research to the American Chemical Society, even cheaper solar shingles are now a possibility, thanks to new devices built with zinc and copper. According to the researchers, this new design is yielding record breaking solar energy results.

"Sustainability involves developing technology that can be productive over the long term, using resources in ways that meet today's needs without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their needs," Atwater told the American Chemical Society. "That's exactly what we are doing with these new solar-energy conversion devices."

via Fast Company