North America’s largest roofing and waterproofing company just stepped into the 21st century. This week, GAF revealed the world’s first nailable solar shingle, which integrates solar energy into existing roofing materials and installations.
Some homeowners, although keen to play their part in solving the climate crisis, loathe the aesthetics of conventional rooftop solar panels. With them in mind, Tesla launched the Solar Roof in 2016, consisting of an array of glass tiles that harvest solar energy all while looking beautiful. Since then, we’ve seen other companies come to the market with similar solutions. But GAF Energy has thought of a simpler, cheaper solution to installing rooftop solar.
Having a solar shingle, one that can be nailed down like everyday shingles, is easier to integrate with existing roofs. It’s also easier to replace or repair thanks to its coplanar design that integrates electrical components on the front rather than the back for easy servicing.
Conventional rooftop solar panels require rails so the modules can be screwed down. The new shingles, known as Timberline Solar Shingles, are nailed through a three-inch nailing strip. It’s just a matter of overlapping one shingle on top of the bottom one until you’re done scaling the entire roof.
According to GAF Energy president Martin DeBono, the shingle design has a number of advantages over conventional solar rooftops. Thanks to its design, it takes days rather than weeks to install a solar roof, for instance. “We’ve installed them already in two days, including ripping off the old roof and putting on the new roof,” he told The Verge.
Timberline Solar Shingles are the first products that have been certified as both solar panels and construction materials. They’re fire-resistant and walkable like any plank but just transparent enough to let light hit photovoltaic cells sandwiched between glass and a polymer. The polysilicon solar cells embedded in the shingles have a rated efficiency of 22.6%, which is just a few points shy of the commercially available state-of-the-art.
“Solar roofs are the future of clean energy, and Timberline Solar is the game-changing innovation that will get us there,” said DeBono in a statement.“At GAF Energy, we have the capacity to scale this technology like no one else through GAF, bringing an integrated solar product that is weatherproof, affordable, and design-minded to homeowners across the country. We’re excited to lead the next generation of clean energy adoption.”
You do have to install a lot of them to complete a roof since they’re much narrower than conventional solar ‘blue’ panels. It takes around 130 of them to assemble a typical 6kW solar array.
Although we don’t have exact price specs yet, you can expect that covering your roof in these shingles will cost more than installing conventional solar roofing. However, DeBono claims that “it will cost the same as if you were to get a new roof and put solar on it.”
Considering over five million new roofs are installed in the United States annually, with one out of every four of these roofs using GAF materials and contractors, these solar shingles sound like a game-changer – at least on paper.
Unfortunately, the golden days of residential rooftop solar seem behind us. California and Nevada, the country’s prime solar market, have either phased out incentives or are planning to charge solar panel owners a flat fee for every kW they hook up to the grid. Considering the government is pouring billions into fossil fuel subsidies every year, one can only ironically wonder if our priorities are set straight.