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onverting to solar energy means covering a roof in unsightly solar panels. Not necessarily: Philadelphia company SRS Energy has developed the Solé Power Tile, a roof tile designed to sustainably convert sunlight into electricity without compromising aesthetics. The dark blue tiles, manufactured by SRS Energy, are jointly branded and distributed by US Tile and specifically designed to be compatible with the clay roof tiles manufactured by US Tile. Customers who purchase clay tiles will be given the option to upgrade a section of their roof to Solé Power Tiles. When installed, the system can offset a large proportion of a homeowner’s energy costs—not to mention cleaning their carbon conscience. The tiles are available in select West Coast markets this autumn, with a nationwide rollout planned for spring 2010.

SRS Energy says that the Solé tiles, made from a high-performance polymer often used in car bumpers, are lightweight, unbreakable and recyclable. Flexible solar technology by United Solar Ovonic is embedded inside each tile, allowing them to function independently of each other. Meanwhile, the performance of the system as a whole is monitored remotely by SRS Energy and US Tile. The director of engineering at SRS Energy is J.D. Albert, who also developed the electronic ink technology used in Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader.

What’s so attractive about the Solé Power Tile system he and his team have produced is that it makes it easy for consumers to make a green choice, without having to settle for a product they find unappealing. With more tile styles and colours in the pipeline, SRS Energy could soon be enjoying a big chunk of eco-bounty, as will any other company that can remove the disincentives from sustainable technology.