Roofing companies take the lead in nailable solar panel race

Solar panels, solar tiles, solar roofs – whatever you call it – are becoming trendy again with the announcement of a “available” product from GAF Energy. These products in the building or integrated building photovoltaic (BIPV) category of the market take solar cells and condense them into smaller panel sizes that attach to a residential roof in a shape less than traditional rack-mounted solar systems.

The idea of ​​integrated solar roofing products has been around since the beginning of solar generation itself, but the most successful attempts have been made in the past decade. Promising lines of solar panels (such as Dow’s Powerhouse) have largely failed due to their lack of a rooftop-ready installation grid with a solar product.

Tesla learned this the hard way by attempting an entire roof in solar panels. Solar installers don’t always know the needs of roofers, and traditional roofers aren’t familiar with connecting glass tiles to generate electricity. This required Tesla to learn quickly, and to be responsible for managing each project instead of a sabbatical.

“Solar panels are something everyone cares about, but what Tesla does is very complex,” said Oliver Koehler, CEO of SunTegra Solar. “If you imagine replacing the entire roof, not just the solar area — it becomes very complicated. It’s not something a normal solar integrator wants to be a part of.”


This is why more successful companies like SunTegra, which manufactures solar panels that are installed alongside traditional asphalt shingles or concrete tiles, have made solar roof products in sizes familiar to rooftop owners and solar installers alike, and these communities have been reached For installation experience.

SunTegra has been making 110W solar panels and 70W solar tiles since 2014 and relies on a small group of authorized dealers to complete about 50 solar roof installations each year, mostly in the Northeast for upper-middle-class homeowners.

“We have a lot of potential customers who literally do nothing [other] From just having our website. Lots of homeowners love solar energy but don’t necessarily like solar panels. “The issue for us is how do we meet that demand,” Koehler said. “Solar panels and tiles are still a niche, but they could become a larger part of the market. Costs should come down and how should they be combined with a standard solar stabilizer from a sales and product perspective.”

SunTegra may succeed with its modest installation record, but the real secret to growing the solar roof market is getting solar panels into more middle-class homes through existing roofing installation channels. The top two leaders in this race are giants Bishop GAF and CertainTeed, although they are based on very different products.

Focus on rooftops instead of solar energy

The solar panels with the best real-world experience are the Apollo II product from CertainTeed. On the market since 2013, the Apollo can be installed on both asphalt shingle roofs and concrete tile roofs (and shingle and cedar roofs). Mark Stephens, CertainTeed’s solar product manager, said the industry can expect a next-generation design over the next year, but for now, Apollo II solar panels top the top at 77 watts, using two seven-cell rows.

CertainTeed Solar Apollo II

Instead of covering an entire roof with solar tiles, CertainTeed keeps its solar panel to 46 x 14 inches. The use of CertainTeed branded asphalt shingles of traditional size is permitted around the perimeter of the Apollo range. And while CertainTeed doesn’t make concrete tiles, the Apollo system can still be used on this specialized ceiling without custom tiles.

“We are a solar panel that has been checked. We have been around for almost 10 years. We know what our product is and how it works,” Stevens said. “But right now, a solar roof makes up only 2% of the market.”

That’s why CertainTeed offers full size solar panels in addition to the solar panels. Both products are assembled by an OEM company in San Jose, California.

“It is important for us to have [traditional solar panels and solar shingles] To have a good presence in the industry. It gives us a good choice and a better choice, Stevens said. “Apollo gets people interested because it’s low-key [and] Aesthetically. Then they see the price is a little higher.” But CertainTeed installers can offer traditional solar panel and rack systems as a cheaper alternative.

CertainTeed Solar Apollo II

The key to CertainTeed’s success is working through its existing network of merchants. Clients may reach out to get an exposed roof and then open up about the idea of ​​solar power after speaking to one of the thousands of CertainTeed certified roofers across the country.

“Solar panels have been out for a while. But having a company like GAF and CertainTeed bringing that information to roof owners is important,” Stevens said. “It’s a struggle for Dows and SunTegras to get those connections. They’re getting close to the roofing workers, but that’s a challenge because they’re not really attached to the side of the asphalt shingles.”

Like CertainTeed, GAF and its solar division, GAF Energy, are turning to the company’s existing network of asphalt shingle roof installers to generate buzz around GAF’s solar roof product. GAF Energy has already participated in full-size unit installations through the DecoTech Show, and is now shifting its focus to its new solar panel: Timberline Solar Energy Shingle.

Comparison of GAF Energy DecoTech (full-size solar panels) and Timberline Solar (solar panels)

said Reynolds Holmes, GAF Energy’s vice president of services and product management. GAF Energy partners with a company that has nearly 10,000 approved contractors who install asphalt shingles. If you can take that base out of a plank, design a way to make it [solar] Installable just like an asphalt shingle, it doesn’t change the working power, it doesn’t change the tool kit but it will be able to save electricity and energy with this product – I think we could just throw it out of the garden. ”

The Timberline Solar panel measures approximately 64 x 17 inches, while the solar panel (single row of 16 half-cut cells generating 45 Watts) is 60 x 7.5 inches. This additional non-solar part is actually a TPO roofing material and is installed on the roof.

“We designed it to be handled by one person with a nail gun. We hit this limit on the length of anything longer than 60 inches. It became difficult to handle for a single compound,” Holmes said.

GAF Energy Timberline Solar Wooden Panel

Timberline Solar was installed in tandem with Timberline Solar HD shingles, a special sized (40 inch) asphalt shingle for the solar roof. By making both products divisible by 10, it’s still easy to lay out the gradient pattern of shingles made by roofers. The entire Timberline Solar system (assembled at GAF’s 50 MW power manufacturing facility in San Jose, California) is designed for easy installation – the connectors on top of the solar panel and covered with a post-roof shielding are fully installed.

Texas RoofFix Roofing Company is one of those 10,000 GAF dealers who will install the Timberline Solar product as it rolls out nationwide. Shunak Patel, a home consultant at Rove Fix, said the company had previously installed a DecoTech product and often asked questions about other solar panel companies, particularly Tesla. Patel liked to stress that it’s better to work with a roofing company rather than a tech developer.

“Tesla is effectively a rack-mounted system. You have a lot of penetrations in your roof. You have all these potential points of failure, especially from a company that doesn’t do the roofing business,” he said. “We are a roofing company. We are not a solar company trying to do roofing.”

GAF Energy Timberline Solar Wooden Panel

While GAF Energy and CertainTeed products for solar roofs aren’t as visually coherent as what Tesla is trying, Holmes said realistic demands on aesthetics aren’t what’s holding back BIPV market growth — size is.

“You have to design and develop a great product that has an accessible price point, but you also have to build the infrastructure to scale that product,” he said. “Something we have relied heavily on and made design decisions possibly against being the supreme power is making sure that it is installable through this 10,000-strong network. At the end of the day, if you have a great product that meets all the needs but no one can install it, we might You don’t have to have a great product either.”

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