Saturday Jan 28, 2023

Roofing companies take the lead in solar shingle race – Solar Power World

Solar shingles, solar tiles, solar roofs — whatever you call them — are trendy once again with the announcement of a “nailable” product from GAF Energy. These products in the building-applied or building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) category of the market take solar cells and condense them into smaller panel sizes that attach to a residential roof on a lower-profile than traditional rack-mounted solar systems.

The idea for solar-integrated roofing products has been around since the beginning of solar generation itself, but the more successful attempts have been made in the last decade. Promising lines of solar shingles (like Dow’s Powerhouse) have largely failed due to their lack of an installation network willing to get on the roof with the solar product.

Tesla has been learning this the hard way with its whole-roof attempt at solar shingles. Solar installers aren’t always familiar with roofing needs, and traditional roofers aren’t versed in connecting glass tiles for electricity generation. This has required Tesla to learn on the fly, being responsible for managing every project instead of subbing out.

“The solar shingle is something everyone’s interested in, but what Tesla is doing is very complicated,” said Oliver Koehler, CEO of solar shingle company SunTegra. “If you imagine replacing the whole roof, not just the solar area — it gets quite complex. It’s not something your average solar integrator even wants to be part of.”


That’s why the more successful companies like SunTegra, which makes solar shingles that are installed in conjunction with traditional asphalt shingles or concrete tiles, have made their solar roofing products in sizes more familiar to roofers and solar installers alike, and reached out to those communities for installation expertise.

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

“We have lots of leads doing literally nothing [other] than just having our website out there. A lot of homeowners love solar but don’t necessarily love solar panels. The issue for us is how do you satisfy that demand,” Koehler said. “Solar shingles and tiles are still a niche, but it can become a bigger part of the market. The costs have to come down and how it integrates with the standard solar installer has to become streamlined from both a sales and product perspective.”

SunTegra may be succeeding with its modest installation record, but the real secret to growing the solar roof market is getting solar shingles on more middle-class homes through existing roofing installation channels. The two frontrunners in this race are roofing giants GAF and CertainTeed, although they’re banking on very different products.

Focusing on roofs rather than solar

The solar shingle with the most real-world experience is the Apollo II product from CertainTeed. On the market since 2013, Apollo can be installed on both asphalt shingle and concrete tile roofs (and slate and cedar-shake roofs). Mark Stevens, CertainTeed’s solar product manager, said the industry can expect a next-generation design within the next year, but right now the Apollo II solar shingle tops out at 77 W, using two seven-cell rows.

CertainTeed Solar Apollo II

Rather than covering an entire roof with solar tiles, CertainTeed keeps its solar shingle to 46- by 14-in. and allows traditionally sized CertainTeed-branded asphalt shingles to be used …….


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