In 2016, Tesla attempted to reinvent the simple roof as a beautiful array of glass tiles brimming with solar energy — a vision it has struggled to deliver ever since. But San Jose, California-based GAF Energy thinks it has a simpler solution for the solar roof. It’s built a solar shingle, one that can be nailed into packages, much like the everyday shingles you’d use when repairing or replacing your regular, non-sun roof.
You may have heard of solar shingles before, but GAF Energy President Martin DeBono suggests that the new Timberline Solar shingles are the first to really earn that name, because they’re the first to actually work that way — you literally hit nails through a three-inch strip of nail, overlap the top of that clapboard with the bottom of the next, and repeat. “A number of companies have come out with what… she We call them solar shingles, but they’re almost identical to regular solar panels, just small,” explains DeBono, who says those previous sunroofs also required rails so the panels could be bolted on.
The result of true shingles, DeBono claims, is that it takes days instead of weeks to install a sunroof. “We already installed them in two days, which included taking the old roof off and putting in the new roof,” he says. The company had already tried traditional tile solar roofs, which pointed me to an earlier interview in which DeBono said GAF Energy had installed more than 2,000, reportedly more than Tesla. “It takes several days, 10 to 12 people on the roof,” says DeBono. But its parent company, building materials conglomerate Standard Industries, decided to invest more than $1 billion in this seemingly simpler gravel solution instead. (Here’s a Forbes profile of the founders of Standard Industries and their play on solar.)
DeBono Says Timberline Solar Are First Products To Ever Receive UL’s 7103 Certification To Serve As Both Solar Panels and building materials, thanks to a special sandwich of glass, polysilicon solar cells and a top layer of a patented fluorinated alkane-ethylene polymer that is fire-resistant, impact-resistant, structured to be walkable and yet transparent enough to allow light to pass through. He says they give the panels a fire rating of A, withstand hail, and yet the shingles are actually less close to the same thickness as a normal shingle, meaning they weigh a little less and should be just as easy for roofers to get around. to swing.
And while it takes far more solar shingles than solar panels to form a roof — an average-sized array of 6 kW can take up 130 — DeBono says it shouldn’t be less efficient or more expensive just because there are more modules. are. For starters, DeBono says the Thai cells his company uses are 22.6 percent efficient, within a few percent of the state-of-the-art in solar panels, and the higher number of shingles means the system’s total power isn’t. deteriorates as much as some of them come into shadow as the sun moves and the weather changes.
For another, that 6kW system should take up between 350 and 450 square feet on a roof, about the same amount of space as a rack-mount solar panel system, and the rest of the roof can be filled in with matching GAF shingles.
But, like other solar roofs, it certainly costs more than just adding solar panels to an existing roof that is known to be good. “It costs the same as if you got a new roof and put solar power on it,” says DeBono. (He declined to say how much each individual clapboard costs.) But because many more people are getting new roofs every year than adding solar energy — 5 million a year versus 300,000 a year, he suggests — there’s a big opportunity for some. of those people to add integrated renewable energy as they go. Especially since GAF already sells traditional shingles to cover one in four of those roofs, the company claims.
The sun shingles don’t look good precisely like shingles, of course — there are covers for their wiring (for easier maintenance than having to remove the entire tile, DeBono says), and you’ll need mid-circuit breaker protection for every 2 kW panel that’s in a visible box (although DeBono says that you could put it in the attic instead of on the roof).
GAF Energy currently makes all of these at a 130,000-square-foot facility in San Jose, California, with a capacity of approximately 50 megawatts per year. That’s not as huge a figure as it might sound – it’s just over 8,300 homes a year if you assume that each of them needs the average 6 kW array. But DeBono says he also sees it as GAF Energy’s first production facility, with more on the way.
He says the new Timberline solar panels are now available through sister company GAF’s existing network of roofers on the US East Coast and Texas, although these panels are not yet available specifically in the major solar states of California or Florida. He says it will take about 90 days for them to be listed with the California Energy Commission and possibly four to five months for additional Florida wind tests. From there, the company will expand to other states.
In fact, GAF Energy has moved its solar production from Asia to California in the past year, and the timing isn’t quite great: The solar industry is currently battling a new California proposal to charge solar panel owners a flat fee for every kW solar panel capacity that they connect to the grid, among other reduced incentives for installing solar. “What’s been proposed would be the death of California’s solar industry, and that’s no exaggeration,” DeBono said. The edge, noting what happened to Nevada’s solar industry after that state phased out incentives and how the state eventually changed its tune.