By relying on an old building material—nails—a new solar technology unveiled at CES yesterday could bring power-generating roofs to the masses. For years, solar-power enthusiasts have scraped their old roofs of Shingles, replaced them with new ones, and then slapped enormous solar panels on top using solid frames. It’s a good paradigm, but it generates a two-step process, which engineers have been trying to eliminate.
Solar roofs have been supplied by a slew of enterprises, but they’ve largely remained niche offerings. GAF Energy hopes to change that with the Timberline Solar Energy Shingles, which resembles traditional asphalt Shingles in appearance. But it’s not so much that they resemble asphalt in appearance as it is that they’re installed in a similar manner. Roofers may simply slap the flexible sheets down and tack the top strip to the roof, exactly as they would for a standard roof.
GAF Energy is depending on the roofing industry’s scale to make solar more affordable by relying on the Shingles installation process. “The roofing environment is 20–30 times the size of the solar ecosystem.” Every year, 200,000–300,000 people in the United States receive a new solar system. “Over 5 million people will get a new roof,” GAF Energy CEO Martin DeBono told Ars. The solar roof concept has been around for years, with Tesla’s being the most well-known.
Their solar roofs are attractive and understated, with power-generating Shingles that look almost identical to ordinary tiles. Despite multiple improvements, however, they continue to be difficult to install at a fair cost. This year, the company raised the price of its solar roofs by a large amount, adding a “roof complexity” component that impacts the entire price. The approach taken by GAF Energy aims to simplify key aspects of the process.