GAF Energy has installed more solar roofs than Tesla

The industry will evolve from rack-mounted to building-integrated PV.”
By Eric Wesoff

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GAF Energy, part of Standard Industries and sister company to GAF, one of the world’s largest roofing companies, has installed more than 2,000 integrated solar roofs — more deployments than the higher-profile Tesla has pulled off for its solar roof tile product. That’s according to Martin DeBono, president of GAF Energy, who spoke with Canary Media last week.

GAF’s parent, Standard Industries, is actually investing more than $1 billion over the next few years to develop a new solar roof design that’s expected to launch this year, according to reports in Forbes, which ranks Standard as No. 69 on its list of America’s largest private companies.

Our mission is energy from every roof, starting with composite shingle roofs,” said DeBono. He defined success as reaching a double-digit-percentage attach rate for the GAF residential roof: Say, 10 percent.”

Since GAF installs more than 1 million new roofs in the U.S. each year, that works out to 2,000 installed and 98,000 more to go.

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

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 Energy's integrated 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 [in.] by 6 [in.] 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.

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.

(Article images courtesy of GAF)

Eric Wesoff is editorial director at Canary Media.