A new solar technology introduced yesterday at CES could bring power-producing roofs mainstream by relying on an old building material—nails.
For years, homeowners who wanted solar power have stripped their old roofs of shingles, added new ones, and then slapped large solar panels on top using sturdy frames. It’s a model that works well, but it also creates a two-step process that engineers have been striving to simplify.
Plenty of companies have offered their own take on solar roofs, but so far, they’ve remained niche products. GAF Energy is hoping to change that with the Timberline Solar Energy Shingle that looks strikingly like typical asphalt shingles. But their key feature isn’t so much that they emulate the look of asphalt shingles, but that they’re installed in nearly the same way. Roofers can slap the flexible sheets down and nail the top strip to the roof, just like they do for traditional roofs.
By relying on the shingle installation process, GAF Energy is counting on the scale of the roofing industry to make solar more accessible. “The roofing ecosystem is 20–30 times larger than solar. In the United States, 200,000–300,000 people get a new solar system each year. Over 5 million get a new roof,” Martin DeBono, CEO of GAF Energy, told Ars. “Our innovation is you now have a nailable solar roof, which fits the way that the majority of roofs are installed.”
Technology New spin on an old idea
The solar roof concept has been around for years, and so far the best known is Tesla’s. Their solar roofs are stylish and subtle, with power-producing shingles that are nearly indistinguishable from regular tiles. But despite several revisions, they remain challenging to install at a reasonable cost. Just this year, the company significantly increased the cost of its solar roofs, adding a “roof complexity” factor that affects the total price.
Real Life. Real News. Real Action
Zillion Things Mobile!Read More-Visit US
GAF Energy’s approach attempts to simplify several parts of the process. The first, DeBono said, is customer acquisition. Solar installers spend enormous sums to sign up new customers, which gets added on to the price of each installation. Last year, installers spent $0.75 per watt to find new customers, according to analysts at WoodMackenzie. On a typical 7 kW system, customer acquisition adds $5,250, or about 23 percent of the system’s cost. By comparison, DeBono said that “roofers spend very little on sales and marketing.”
The company sought to reduce the time and complexity of the installation process by using a format that roofers are familiar with. They also increased the dimensions of each shingle, which reduces the total install time for the entire roof.
Lastly, GAF Energy moved much of the wiring on top of the roof rather than burying it beneath the shingles. Rows of solar shingles are daisy-chained together and connected with wiring runs that look like seams on a metal roof. Each wiring run supports 2 kW of solar panels. Roofers make the electrical connections between shingles, and an electrician inspects them all when installing the inverter and tying the system into the grid.
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe