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World NewsGAF 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 Solar Roof in 2016, it was the primary that many individuals had heard of solar shingles. But the concept of a roofing product that may each generate vitality and mix in with common asphalt shingles has been round for many years.

Companies from Dow Chemical Company to the now defunct BP Solar have given the solar shingle a shot, however many of those merchandise are not on the market. Solar shingles have been costly to manufacture and set up, and are usually not but as environment friendly as common solar panels. That’s saved them from breaking into the mainstream.

Now GAF, one of many largest roofing corporations on the earth and a division of privately held Standard Industries, is launching a brand new solar shingle effort. Its sister firm, GAF Energy, simply launched a product referred to as Timberline Solar, which the corporate says will likely be cheaper and extra dependable than Tesla’s Solar Roof. It simply received the Best of Innovation Award for Smart Cities at CES.

What units GAF Energy aside

“We’re part of the world’s largest roofing manufacturer. We have access to materials that typical solar companies don’t have access to,” stated Martin DeBono, President of GAF Energy. “No one has ever specifically tried to make a solar product that a roofer can install. And we’ve done it, and our product goes on with just a nail gun. It goes on twice as fast as typical solar.”

Timberline Solar could be nailed to the roof similar to an everyday shingle, which GAF Energy says will cut back the complexity and value of set up. At 17 inches tall and 64 inches lengthy, the shingles are additionally bigger than Tesla’s, which means there are fewer elements to manufacture and fewer particular person wiring connections, which the corporate expects will even lower prices whereas rising reliability.

However the bigger and bulkier design additionally signifies that GAF Energy’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 Solar R&D at GAF Energy, holds the corporate’s new solar shingle.

GAF Energy

GAF Energy says its deep ties to the roofing sector will even assist it save on gross sales and advertising and marketing bills, for the reason that firm can appeal to solar clients from the big pool of individuals already coming to GAF for a brand new roof.

The natural moment to actually put solar on a roof is that moment when you’re already about to replace your roof. It makes literally no sense to put brand new PV on an old roof that’s well into its warranty,” stated David Winter, Co-CEO of Standard Industries.

Winter says that one out of each three asphalt shingle roofs within the U.S. is a GAF roof. “So we’re the people that are sitting at the proverbial kitchen table with the homeowner at that moment that they need to replace their roof, where we can introduce the idea of solar.”

Read extra about clear vitality from CNBC Pro

According to Wood Mackenzie, buyer acquisition prices often make up 23% of the overall value of a residential solar system, so saving right here could possibly be key.

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

“What that allows us to do is take improvements in our product from the lab and get them to instantiate in the product very, very quickly,” DeBono says. Alternately, groups would have to fly abroad to execute modifications. “And what you see is changes to your product take quarters and years, literally, whereas here it takes hours and days.”

Questions stay

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

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

“Let’s say in many parts of the country, you have a fifteen thousand dollar cost for the roof. Getting a solar system, adding that would be another fifteen thousand,” DeBono stated.

GAF Energy’s Timberline Solar shingles totally put in on a house in Montclair, New Jersey.

GAF Energy

Getting a $30,000 solar roof can be far cheaper than something on the market at this time, and will value lower than getting a brand new roof plus common solar panels.

For comparability, Tesla’s projected value for an average-sized 1,700 sq. foot Solar Roof within the Bay Area is about $40,700 earlier than solar subsidies. But Tesla’s product has been identified to value rather more than preliminary estimates. The firm was hit with a class-action lawsuit final yr after it dramatically hiked Solar Roof costs for patrons who had already signed contracts. (Tesla later instructed some clients it might reverse the value will increase, in accordance to authorized filings.)

The effectivity of GAF’s shingles in a real-world setting can be an open ended query, since earlier solar shingle merchandise have not been comparable to common panels.

They fundamentally operate at a lower efficiency,” stated Barry Cinnamon, founding father 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 is utilizing high-efficiency mono-PERC cells, which carry out higher than conventional monocrystalline PV cells at excessive temperatures. Yet given the Timberline Solar shingle’s dimensions and its acknowledged 45 watt capability, in very best circumstances it might nonetheless generate much less vitality per sq. foot than Tesla’s newest 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 launched. But talking about solar shingles usually, he was uncertain that they might ever attraction to the plenty.

“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 likely be in a position to compete when it comes to value, effectivity 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, the place it is assembling Timberline Solar shingles.

–Lora Kolodny contributed to this report.

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