While Tesla dithers and diddles with its SolarRoof, other companies are bringing new products to market that make rooftop solar more attractive than conventional systems and more affordable as well. “There is potential for solar to be offered by other trade services, including roofers, electricians and home-maintenance professionals,” Hugh Bromley of Bloomberg New Energy Finance tells the Mercury News. “Solar in its own right doesn’t need to be its own industry.”
Standard Industries, the largest roofing company in the world, has launched a portfolio company known as GAF Energy that will allow traditional roofing contractors to offer its customers a solar roof option whether they are building a new home or replacing the roof on their existing home. Martin DeBono, president of the new division, tells Fast Company, “The scale of the roofing industry is an order of magnitude greater than the solar industry. GAF Energy can now give those customers a simple option — a roof or a solar roof.”
He says about 5 million homes get new roofs every year, but only 300,000 add solar panels as part of the project. That leaves an enormous opportunity for a new company like GAF Energy. It will sell PV panels that are engineered to install like skylights. They are mounted at the same time as the regular shingles, giving a seamless look to the finished project and keeping installation costs low. The process also avoids the risk of leaks that are possible if solar panels are attached to a roof on separate racks, DeBono says.
The company says its integrated solar panels have an efficiency of around 17%, which is the norm for traditional rooftop solar panels. Tesla has not released specifications about its upcoming SolarRoof tiles but similar products have a lower efficiency rating of between 12% and 13% according to the Mercury News.
Fast Company says the design looks more like solar panels than Tesla’s solar shingles but it has a similarly low profile. And it points out somewhat coyly, the GAF Energy product is available now. The Tesla SolarRoof? Who knows when it will be available.
“We’re taking complicated installation logistics out of the equation for contractors to make choosing solar easier and more convenient,” DeBono says. The company will also work to streamline the permitting and financing process so that all customers and contractors need to do is decide whether or not to install the system.
“Standard Industries saw a chance to shift the conversation around rooftop solar to show contractors and consumers that your roof is valuable real estate that can be put to good use,” DeBono says. That’s the sort of integrated process Tesla is famous for and it’s the sort of convenience that can make all the difference when it comes to deciding whether to go ahead with a rooftop solar system or not.
GAF Energy expects to ship about 10 megawatts of solar systems this year in nine US states including California and New York. “We’re a growing startup in a hot space and we’re starting from zero,” DeBono says. “The goal is to make roofers solar people.” Seems like a plan.