GAF Energy taking on Tesla, to make solar shingles cheaper

GAF Energy taking on Tesla, to make solar shingles cheaper

When Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Photo voltaic Roof in 2016, it was the primary that many individuals had heard of photo voltaic shingles. However the thought of a roofing product that may each generate vitality and mix in with common asphalt shingles has been round for many years.

Corporations from Dow Chemical Firm to the now defunct BP Photo voltaic have given the photo voltaic shingle a shot, however many of those merchandise are now not in the marketplace. Photo voltaic shingles have been costly to fabricate and set up, and should not but as environment friendly as common photo voltaic panels. That is saved them from breaking into the mainstream.

Now GAF, one of many largest roofing firms on the planet and a division of privately held Standard Industries, is launching a brand new photo voltaic shingle effort. Its sister firm, GAF Vitality, simply launched a product known as Timberline Photo voltaic, which the corporate says can be cheaper and extra dependable than Tesla’s Photo voltaic Roof. It simply received the Better of Innovation Award for Good Cities at CES.

What units GAF Vitality aside

“We’re a part of the world’s largest roofing producer. Now we have entry to supplies that typical photo voltaic firms do not have entry to,” stated Martin DeBono, President of GAF Vitality. “Nobody has ever particularly tried to make a photo voltaic product {that a} roofer can set up. And we have accomplished it, and our product goes on with only a nail gun. It goes on twice as quick as typical photo voltaic.”

Timberline Photo voltaic may be nailed to the roof similar to a daily shingle, which GAF Vitality says will scale back the complexity and price of set up. At 17 inches tall and 64 inches lengthy, the shingles are additionally bigger than Tesla’s, that means there are fewer elements to fabricate and fewer particular person wiring connections, which the corporate expects may also lower prices whereas rising reliability.

Nonetheless the bigger and bulkier design additionally signifies that GAF Vitality’s shingle does not mix in in addition to Tesla’s product, which is almost indistinguishable from regular roofing materials.

Gabriela Bunea, Senior Vice President of Photo voltaic R&D at GAF Vitality, holds the corporate’s new photo voltaic shingle.

GAF Vitality

GAF Vitality says its deep ties to the roofing sector may also assist it save on gross sales and advertising and marketing bills, for the reason that firm can entice photo voltaic clients from the massive pool of individuals already coming to GAF for a brand new roof.

The pure second to truly put photo voltaic on a roof is that second whenever you’re already about to exchange your roof. It makes actually no sense to place model new PV on an previous roof that is nicely into its guarantee,” stated David Winter, Co-CEO of Customary Industries.

Winter says that one out of each three asphalt shingle roofs within the U.S. is a GAF roof. “So we are the folks which are sitting on the proverbial kitchen desk with the house owner at that second that they should exchange their roof, the place we are able to introduce the thought of photo voltaic.”

In accordance with Wood Mackenzie, buyer acquisition prices often make up 23% of the full value of a residential photo voltaic system, so saving right here might be key.

GAF Vitality additionally touts the truth that it assembles and partially manufactures its shingles at its facility in San Jose, California. Whereas the corporate imports its PV cells from Thailand, it believes that having some home manufacturing is advantageous.

“What that enables us to do is take enhancements in our product from the lab and get them to instantiate within the product very, in a short time,” DeBono says. Alternately, groups must fly abroad to execute modifications. “And what you see is modifications to your product take quarters and years, actually, whereas right here it takes hours and days.”

Questions stay

Solely actual world efficiency over the product’s 25-year guarantee will present if GAF Vitality has actually cracked the code to an reasonably priced and dependable photo voltaic shingle product.

GAF Vitality didn’t present CNBC with particular pricing info, although DeBono estimated that on common, Timberline Photo voltaic may value about twice as a lot as changing a roof with regular asphalt shingles.

“As an instance in lots of elements of the nation, you’ve got a 15 thousand greenback value for the roof. Getting a photo voltaic system, including that may be one other fifteen thousand,” DeBono stated.

GAF Vitality’s Timberline Photo voltaic shingles totally put in on a house in Montclair, New Jersey.

GAF Vitality

Getting a $30,000 photo voltaic roof could be far cheaper than something in the marketplace immediately, and will value lower than getting a brand new roof plus common photo voltaic panels.

For comparability, Tesla’s projected value for an average-sized 1,700 sq. foot Photo voltaic Roof within the Bay Space is about $40,700 earlier than photo voltaic subsidies. However Tesla’s product has been identified to value far more than preliminary estimates. The corporate was hit with a class-action lawsuit final yr after it dramatically hiked Solar Roof prices for customers who had already signed contracts. (Tesla later told some customers it would reverse the price increases, according to legal filings.)

The efficiency of GAF’s shingles in a real-world environment is also an open ended question, since previous solar shingle products haven’t been comparable to regular panels.

They fundamentally operate at a lower efficiency,” said Barry Cinnamon, founder of Silicon Valley-based solar installer Cinnamon Energy Systems. “And the reason is that they’re flush with the roof and the roof is hot. And so hot solar cells don’t work as efficiently as cooler solar cells in conventional modules.”

GAF Energy says that it’s using high-efficiency mono-PERC cells, which perform better than traditional monocrystalline PV cells at high temperatures. Yet given the Timberline Solar shingle’s dimensions and its stated 45 watt capacity, in ideal conditions it would still generate less energy per square foot than Tesla’s latest 71.7 watt shingle or an average-sized 300 watt solar panel.

At the time of CNBC’s interview with Cinnamon, GAF Energy’s shingle had not been released. But speaking about solar shingles generally, he was doubtful that they would ever appeal to the masses.

“I really don’t see anything that’s going to change with any of these factors that are going to make it a widespread mainstream product. I think it’s always going to be a niche product like a fancy sports car.”

Yet Gabriela Bunea, Senior Vice President of Solar R&D at GAF Energy, maintains that Timberline Solar will be able to compete when it comes to cost, efficiency and reliability.

It is my hope that maybe in five, ten years when you are thinking about changing your roof, you will pick the solar roof, because it makes economic sense, because it’s attractive and because you will have the same warranty as the rest of the roof.”

Watch the video to see CNBC’s early look inside GAF Energy’s R&D and manufacturing facility in San Jose, California, where it’s assembling Timberline Solar shingles.

–Lora Kolodny contributed to this report.

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