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GAF Energy invests in integrated solar rooftops, adds US manufacturing jobs

It's all about "American jobs and California jobs, getting the facility in place, hiring locally and promoting U.S. solar."

Eric Wesoff
Eric Wesoff
3 min read
GAF Energy invests in integrated solar rooftops, adds US manufacturing jobs

Last week, we reported that GAF Energy (part of GAF, one of the world’s largest roofing companies) has installed over 2,000 integrated solar roofs — more deployments than the higher-profile Tesla has managed to pull off for its solar roof product.

There's more news from GAF Energy this week, with the company announcing a new 112,000-square-foot research and manufacturing facility in San Jose, California for its building-integrated photovoltaic roof.

"This is a furtherance of our commitment to the solar roof. We have a $50 million commitment for our first manufacturing facility in the United States, capable of producing 50 megawatts of product [per year]," according to Martin DeBono, president of GAF Energy, in recent interviews with Canary Media.

It's all about "American jobs and California jobs, getting the facility in place, hiring locally and promoting U.S. solar," said DeBono. When ramped up to full capacity, the facility could support as many as 350 jobs across construction, manufacturing, and research and development.  

DeBono added, "The CEOs of [GAF parent] Standard Industry are going to invest a billion dollars in building technology."

"Our mission is energy from every roof, starting with composite shingle roofs," said DeBono. "We expect exponential growth from this industry. As [building-integrated PV] products become easier to install and as the roofing channel becomes more familiar with offering the solar value proposition, we expect to see growth rates much higher than 20 percent and 30 percent."

Something you might not know about GAF Energy: "We're one of the top 10 tax equity investors in the United States." Its dedicated 12-person team invests "a considerable amount" in commercial finance. "We're able to provide commercial roof owners options to improve their roof, not...just on their materials; [we also] advise them on what solar" to select.  

Roofers want to roof

“Roofers want to roof. We have rectangular kits, [so] roofers can effectively send us a picture of the home and we’ll be able to send them the exact number of rectangular tiles they can put on it. Those are prepackaged at our warehouse for quick turnaround time. The homeowner and the roofing partner get the benefit and the improved economics of only having one crew on the roof," DeBono said in a previous interview.

GAF Energy's integrated solar roof

GAF Energy’s “direct-to-deck” solar modules are integrated into the roof. The company uses a 60-cell, 360-watt laminate from Solaria with a custom frame that allows it to be waterproof with a lower profile and faster installation. SolarEdge optimizers are the standard electronics offering.  

A standard kit is 12 panels situated in a four-panel by three-panel layout with 4.2 kilowatts of capacity. You can get a different size installation, as long as it totals 4.2 kilowatts (or multiples thereof).

GAF's solar roof

The roof will pay for itself within the warranted life of the product, according to DeBono, who added, “You have the backing of GAF, a 100-year old company and largest roofing and waterproofing manufacturer in North America."

Customer acquisition is, remarkably, the most expensive part of a residential solar system, costing far more per watt than the solar panels themselves. According to DeBono, customer-acquisition costs for roofers equate to about 1/100th of what solar companies typically shell out. He claims that roofing acquisition costs are "about $50, maybe $100. Anywhere from 1% to 5% acquisition costs compared to a solar company.”

“Over the last 20 years, the way solar panels have been attached to a roof hasn’t changed. When you install a traditional rack-mounted system, which has between 68 and 100 half-inch penetrations, you’re effectively cutting a 6 [inch] by 6 [inch] hole in the roof, with lag bolts drilled through the water barrier in the hope that you’ll find a rafter," DeBono said. However, he added, “I believe this will change over time. By integrating solar with the roofing, you’re going to ensure the integrity of the home.”

"The industry will evolve from rack-mounted to building-integrated PV,” said DeBono.

Americans want solar on their homes. Even in a pandemic year, residential solar deployment in the U.S. was up 11 percent over 2019, reaching a record 3.1 gigawatts, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.  

In addition to GAF Energy and Tesla, there are a number of building-integrated PV designers and installers operating today, including ArteZanos, Atum, CertainTeed, Forward, Heliatek, Lumeta, SunTegra, Ubiquitous Energy and Viridian Solar.

(Image: GAF)

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Eric Wesoff

Eric Wesoff is a prominent industry journalist, analyst, writer, consultant, speaker, thought-leader and expert witness in the renewable energy field.