The day – As the US turns to solar power, this roofing company hopes “solar shingles” will inspire homeowners to buy

Thousands of Americans install solar power systems on their roofs every year. Most often that means solar panels mounted on racks, but another option may become more accessible: solar shingles.

This month, one of the largest roofing companies in the United States began selling a new solar shingle product. The aim is to reduce the cost of installation and increase the rate of adoption of solar energy.

“What we did was we created a shingle that has solar properties,” said Martin DeBono, president of GAF Energy, which is a sister company of GAF, a roofing manufacturer with a network of over of 10,000 entrepreneurs across the country. . “While someone is buying a new roof, we can give them a solar roof.”

Solar shingles are a bit bigger and about twice as heavy as traditional shingles, but look remarkably similar.

The top half is nailed to the roof, while the bottom half overlaps the previous shingle and remains exposed. The outward facing section of a solar shingle is made of photovoltaic cells rather than asphalt. The panels collect energy and then transfer it through wires at the end of each shingle that connect in a daisy chain.

The aim is to reduce costs by combining roofing and solar installation, said DeBono, who uses his own house as an example. His traditional roof, he said, costs around $ 28,000, and the solar panels he installed would cost around $ 24,000, for a total price of around $ 52,000, or around $ 44,000 after rebates. and incentives. In comparison, he estimated that a GAF Energy solar roof would cost around $ 42,000 and drop to around $ 30,000 after incentives, saving around $ 14,000.

GAF Energy’s new shingles come with a 25-year warranty, which the company says should be enough for a customer to recoup the cost of the system from lower utility bills, especially in the states. where electricity is more expensive. It’s a proposition the company hopes to make their product more successful than previous attempts.

Solar shingles have been around in one form or another for decades, said Zachary Holman, an engineering professor at Arizona State University specializing in solar technology. “A lot of people have played in this space,” he said, including Tesla and other roofing companies such as CertainTeed. Another company, Maxeon Solar Technologies, aims to manufacture adhesive solar panels.

“I’d see it more on supply chain and business innovation,” Holman said of this latest effort, highlighting GAF’s extensive network of installers and the fact that shingles can be nailed down. “They have distribution channels that I think all the other players – including Tesla – haven’t had access to.”

Solar power on the roofs of small buildings could theoretically meet a quarter of electricity demand in the United States, according to a 2016 assessment by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. But installing efficient, durable and eye-friendly solar panels on rooftops at a reasonable cost hasn’t been easy. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, less than 3% of single-family homes have a solar system installed.

However, costs have fallen rapidly over the past decade, and the Department of Energy has declared that “solar power is more affordable, accessible and widespread in the United States than ever before.” The department has a guide to exploring solar power in the home – including tools for estimating solar potential on a home’s roof and navigating the many federal, state, and local solar incentives and credits available. There are also resources to learn about the variety of leasing, loan, and other financing options that exist.

And, as solar shingles demonstrate, the market is constantly changing.

“It’s full, it’s cool and you get all the energy you need. But there are risks,” said Cherif Kedir, president of the Renewable Energy Test Center, which tests and certifies products for various companies, including GAF Energy. One risk is that “you have a product that is in direct contact with your roof,” Kedir said. This can lead to heat management issues, Holman said.

While traditional solar modules have air gaps from a few inches to a few feet from the roof, solar shingles wouldn’t. This means that the shingles can get hotter, which could reduce their effectiveness and potentially make it more difficult to keep the interior of a home cool.

“The main challenge is to convince myself that this will last,” said David Fenning, director of the Solar Energy Innovation Laboratory at the University of California at San Diego. Even with a guarantee, he said, “nobody wants problems with their roofs.”

GAF Energy has developed and tested its solar shingles over the past three years, including with Sandia National Laboratories, a research and development facility in the Department of Energy. Although Sandia’s test data is not yet available, DeBono said he expects the company’s shingles to be as efficient as traditional solar modules.

The company will offer its solar shingles only through GAF installers. They will be available on the East Coast immediately and across the country in the coming months. DeBono said the goal is to have 10% of all roofs GAF installs be solar over the next three years, which could translate to more than 100,000 new solar roofs per year.

DeBono says his concern isn’t whether the shingles will sell – it’s whether the company can meet demand.

“It’s superb, it goes up fast and it’s legit,” DeBono said. “We think a lot of people will now choose to switch to solar power.”

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