California-based GAF Energy has developed a mass-market shingle that could revolutionize rooftop solar generation.
“What we’ve built is a nailable solar shingle that goes on as fast or faster than a regular shingle, looks great, and generates electricity,” GAF President Martin DeBono told Canary Media.
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GAF Energy is a division of Standard Industries and was co-launched with GAF, one of the largest roofing materials companies in the world. With Tesla and other tech companies pushing towards new approaches to rooftop solar, the roofing giant put its foot in the game to “disrupt the roofing industry” before someone else does.
According to DeBono, GAF Energy’s edge comes from approaching the shingles from the perspective of a roofing company, rather than a solar company. Their emphasis on the product’s utility as a roofing material can help rooftop solar move away from the (relatively) clunky panels we’ve come to know and love.
Customer acquisition is typically costly for solar businesses, but because GAF Energy is already embedded in the roofing industry, it’s in a good position to solarize the roofing market, a quarter of which GAF already commands, Canary Media says.
The 45-watt shingles take one to three days to install and measure 60 inches long, 16 inches tall, and less than a quarter-inch deep. The design strings together mono PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell) solar cells that contain a single crystal of silicon and are coated on the back to reflect back into the panel any light that passes through. At 23% efficiency when using standard industry technology, the product is at the high end of average range for the industry as a whole. The stringed cells are then laminated onto a backsheet made of a common commercial waterproofing membrane, then “encapsulated and topped with glass and a textured material that allows the shingle to be walked on,” writes Canary Media.
“Because it’s built as a roofing product, it has to meet roofing standards,” DeBono said. “It has to be able to be submerged in water; it has to be able to withstand hail; it has a Class A fire rating—all standards that a solar panel does not need to meet, but a roof does.”
Bypass diodes, which allow energy current to continue flowing past faulty or damaged cells, are located at every four cells to provide a more consistent energy product, said Gabriela Bunea, GAF Energy’s senior vice president for solar research and development.
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I’ve seen other versions of this idea for 15 years, but prior versions cost more than encased solar panels. Has anyone done a robust price analysis?
That’s the crucial question. We haven’t taken a deep dive on this. But GAF is a major player in the roofing industry, so they would have both the scale to drive cost reductions and the expectation that the product will be affordable in their market. We’re keeping an eye on this, but it also strikes me as a good moment to crowdsource the question — if anyone sees news on this, please post a comment!