How do you get a lot of people to like you? Team up with someone they already know and trust. That's what solar panel and roofing manufacturers hope for as they join forces to produce integrated products. Solar companies create advanced green technology, but roofing manufacturers have the building industry connections and know-how. Lumberyards and distributors that don't want to invest in solar roofing can check out exterior lighting that sports solar cells.

BRIGHT IDEAS: (Above) Drexel Metals and Advanced Green Technologies paired expertise for a metal roof with thin-film solar cells. (Below) Universal Forest Products' Latitudes ornamental railing line offers post caps with solar power. Integrated solar and roofing products have various benefits over typical solar installations. They offer a more seamless aesthetic. The integrated products install similarly to traditional roofing, so installation is streamlined with less chance of future problems. And interested home buyers can get a roof for their houses and a solar product at the same time with the benefit of a joint warranty.

Eagle Roofing teamed with Open Energy Corp. to produce its Eagle Solar Roof, laminated solar cells that are installed alongside concrete roof tile. The company offers the product through its present distributors, and Jay Banister, Eagle's national green program manager, says it will evaluate and train new distributors.

"The one thing that's been really successful is that Eagle, as a company, has taken the whole process–from the design, to the permitting, to doing the paperwork for all of the rebates, and doing the electrical install–and packaged it all," says John Crowle, a business manager for the West region of ABC Supply, which carries the product. "The roofing contractor and the distributor go to one source instead of having to develop a source for all of those aspects."

ABC is also looking to develop its own integrated system that merges solar cells with a single-ply membrane for low-slope commercial roofing applications.

Drexel Metals has an integrated product on the market. The company partnered with Advanced Green Technologies to offer a metal roof with thin-film solar cells adhered on top. Brian Partyka, president of Drexel Metals, says lumber dealers could carry the product but would need training on it. "The installation part is easy," he says. "Making sure the system is designed properly is the key."

GAF partnered with General Electric to look at how to improve solar training programs and the combination of existing roofing and solar products and how to develop targeted marketing, says Dave Harrison, GAF's chief marketing officer. GAF and GE will also work to develop integrated products, Harrison says. He says the products would go through traditional distribution methods.

CertainTeed and SRS Energy are developing a prototype for an integrated roofing system. It includes thin-film solar cells adhered to an s-shaped polymeric tile that replicates the look of standard ceramic tile. Mark Stancroff, CertainTeed's director of planning, says if "CertainTeed is involved in product commercialization, then it will likely be distributed through traditional methods."

"We envision, because it is a roofing product, that we will go through traditional distribution systems," says John Ondik, director of U.S. business development for SRS Energy.

While new and upcoming integrated products offer improvements, they may cost more than many homeowners can afford. However, solar cells have found their way onto exterior lighting. Solar lights do not have to be wired, but the lights must have direct exposure to sun during the day.

Maine Ornamental, owned by Universal Forest Products, makes solar post and stair lights. Universal Forest Products also has a solar-powered post cap light for its Latitudes ornamental railing line. CertainTeed added solar post caps to its Bufftech vinyl fencing and EverNew vinyl railing lines.

–Victoria Markovitz