2013 Solar Employment Grew 10 Times Faster than the National Average Employment Growth Rate

The Solar Foundation (TSF), an independent nonprofit solar research and education organization, has released its fourth annual National Solar Jobs Census, which found the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans in 2013. That figure includes the addition of 23,682 solar jobs over the previous year, representing 19.9 percent growth in employment since September 2012. Solar employment grew 10 times faster than the national average employment growth rate of 1.9 percent in the same period. Read the full report. State-by-state jobs numbers, including a more detailed analysis of the California, Arizona, and Minnesota solar markets, will be released in February.

“The solar industry’s job-creating power is clear,” says Andrea Luecke, executive director and president of The Solar Foundation. “The industry has grown an astounding 53 percent in the last four years alone, adding nearly 50,000 jobs. Our census findings show that for the fourth year running, solar jobs remain well-paid and attract highly skilled workers. That growth is putting people back to work and helping local economies.”

Solar employers are also optimistic about 2014, expecting to add another 22,000 jobs over the coming year. By comparison, over the same time period, the fossil-fuel electric generation sector shrank by more than 8,500 jobs (a decline of 8.7 percent) and jobs in coal mining grew by just 0.25 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics current Employment Survey (not seasonally adjusted), September 2012 – November 2013.

“The solar industry is a proven job-creator,” says Bill Ritter, former governor of Colorado and director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. “In Colorado and across the country, we have seen that when the right policies are in place to create long-term market certainty, this industry continues to add jobs to our economy.”

“SolarCity has added more than 2,000 jobs since the beginning of 2013; every single one in the United States. When you install a solar panel you create a local job that can’t be outsourced,” says Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity. “More than 90 percent of Americans believe we should be using more solar, and fewer than 1 percent have it today. We’ve barely begun this transformation, but as it advances, the American solar industry has the potential to be one of the greatest job creators this country has ever seen.”

Solar companies are also reporting that cost savings are driving their clients’ decision making, as 51.4 percent of customers report going solar to save money and another 22.9 percent because costs are now competitive with utility rates.

“Tens of thousands of new living-wage jobs have been created over the past year thanks to plunging solar technology costs, increasing consumer demand, and supportive government policies,” says Amit Ronen, director of The George Washington University Solar Institute. “As the nation’s fastest growing energy source, we expect the solar industry will continue to generate robust job growth for at least the next decade.”

The National Solar Jobs Census 2013 was conducted by TSF and BW Research Partnership with support from the GW Solar Institute. The report, derived from data collected from more than 2,081 solar firms, measured employment growth in the solar industry between September 2012 and November 2013. The margin of error of this data set is +/- 1.3 percent, significantly lower than any similar national industry study.

“The study shows both aggressive hiring and clear optimism among US solar companies,” says Philip Jordan, vice president at BW Research Partnership. “Of particular interest was the continued high wages among solar installers, who earned an average of between $20 and $23.63 per hour. We also found higher than average employment of veterans in the solar industry, a sign that their high-tech skills are valued in this sector.”

“SunPower is proud to be a global leader in solar power technology and energy services, creating thousands of American jobs and injecting billions into the U.S. economy,” says SunPower CEO Tom Werner. “We employ about 1,000 people at facilities in 10 states and are actively hiring hundreds more. Our network of approximately 400 dealers employs more than 6,000 across the U.S., and two of our major solar power plants last year created 1,300 jobs at peak construction. Solar is a competitive, reliable resource, and an economic success story for America.”

Financing Available for Renewable Energy Projects of 500 kW to 25 MW

Conergy, a solar photovoltaic service and solution provider, has launched its Conergy Fund I program. The program, which provides financing to large-scale construction projects in the United States, makes the use of and savings from solar power a possibility to businesses.

With an initial target volume of $100 million and backing by Conergy’s main investor, Kawa Capital Management, The Conergy Fund I provides financing for solar power plants and qualified commercial projects with renewable energy capabilities between 500 kilowatts and 25 megawatts of power. The fund streamlines the financing process by managing the financial analysis, credit rating, administration and finance, billing, and collection of power purchase agreements (PPAs) on behalf of the project.

“The Fund is ideal for mid-to-large size organizations such as municipalities, school districts, utility companies, and investment-grade corporations because the savings achieved last for decades,” says Anthony Fotopoulos, CEO of Conergy Americas. “Not only are these entities reducing energy consumption, but the fixed energy prices secured through the PPAs are significantly lower than market prices for conventional grid power, providing additional savings to the end-user.”

Access to competitive financing that can monetize local and federal incentives is a key barrier to the widespread adoption of solar photovolatics (PV) via PPAs – only about 40 percent of commercial buildings or power plants are able to secure this financing. The fund bridges this gap by removing the funding barrier that has historically hampered organizations from installing photovoltaic (PV) systems on their facilities.

Through The Fund, Conergy and its partners also provide project development and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services, including engineering, design, and subsequent operations and maintenance management.

Kawa Capital Management acquired Conergy in August 2013 to create a globally unique player in the solar energy industry. Conergy’s expertise in providing complete solar energy solutions and Kawa’s established financial and management strategies were the groundwork for the Conergy Fund I program and will serve as the foundation for future financial solutions in the US electricity market.

“The Conergy Fund I program is the first step in a long relationship with Kawa. We already have five projects in the United States utilizing The Fund and expect to develop and acquire projects in other growth markets in 2014,” says Fotopoulos.

S-5 Announces Metal Plus as New Distributor

S-5!, a manufacturer of ancillary attachment technology for the metal roofing industry, has announced its most recent full-line distributor, Metal Plus LLC.

Metal Plus produces a line of standing-seam brackets designed to simplify temporary staging or scaffolding for metal roofing projects. Because the Metal Plus brackets allow contractors to get to work quickly and safely, they make an excellent platform for installing S-5! products. Pairing these two product lines, roofers, contractors and solar integrators can quickly and cost-effectively attach solar arrays, snow retention systems and other ancillaries to metal roofs without damaging the roof.

Rob Haddock, CEO at S-5!, feels confident the relationship is a good fit for both companies and states: “At S-5! we take innovation, development, thorough testing, and proper market introduction very seriously. We pride ourselves in providing only the best solutions in the metal roofing industry, and I have been impressed with Metal Plus’s commitment to the same.”

According to Mario Lallier, owner of Metal Plus: “We realize that becoming a distributor for S-5! marries two great products, destined to make life for metal roofing installers and contractors much easier. The synergy between metal roofs, S-5! clamps, and Metal Plus brackets equals cost and labor savings upwards of 15 to 25 percent.”

Nashville, Tenn., Begins Revitalization of Its City Center with a New Convention Space that Features a Truly Unique Roof

It isn’t often that a nightmare becomes a pleasant reality. Andy Baker, vice president of Raleigh, N.C.- based Baker Roofing, recalls the year he spent as project manager for the roofing of the new Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn., as one of his most challenging jobs. “The logistics, a tight spot downtown, the size of the project and everything that goes along with that—thousands of people trying to work and everyone needs their material in that area at the same time. Even the unique shape of the building made it hard,” Baker remembers. “We’re glad it’s done and we can look back on it now and say: ‘Wow! We did that.’”

The Music City Center was built to be the catalyst for more development in the SoBro neighborhood of Nashville, Tenn. It is intended to create a diverse economy that won’t be affected if flooding occurs, like in May 2010.

The Music City Center was built to be the catalyst for more development in the SoBro neighborhood of Nashville, Tenn. It is intended to create a diverse economy that won’t be affected if flooding occurs, like in May 2010.

Baker and his crew of up to 50 roofing workers have much to be proud of. The completed project is the largest capital construction project in Nashville’s history and was designed to bring prosperity to the area known as SoBro, or South of Broadway, which was affected by massive flooding in May 2010. The Music City Center lies outside the flood-prone areas and hopefully will be the catalyst for more development, which will create a diverse economy that won’t be affected if another flood occurs.

In addition to the Music City Center’s imaginative design that resembles various musical instruments, the building boasts a number of features that are ideal for a high-profile project. Many of these features are located in the most opportune of places—the roof. An Energy Star-qualified thermoplastic PVC membrane covers the 643,752-squarefoot roof while a 186,700-square-foot vegetated roof literally mimics the rolling hills of Tennessee’s Highland Rim. The rooftop also hosts a 211-kilowatt solar-power system on the 1-acre area that is over the Grand Ballroom, a rooftop space that resembles an acoustic guitar in shape. Lastly, the roof collects rainwater that is funneled to a 360,000-gallon tank before it is used to irrigate the site and flush hundreds of toilets inside.

Construction Challenges

Baker and his colleagues knew the Music City Center would present many challenges even before work began. “We knew it was going to be a logistical nightmare going in but then you have to live it,” he recalls. “You would think four city blocks would be a large enough area to work from but there were thousands of contractors working and receiving materials at the same time. Trying to keep truck drivers and suppliers happy was difficult. The community was great though; there were a lot of police officers around to direct traffic.”

Baker Roofing's team of up to 50 roofing workers spent one year working on the Music City Center.

Baker Roofing’s team of up to 50 roofing workers spent one year working on the Music City Center.

Installation also proved perplexing because of the roof’s undulating slopes of 1/4:12 to 12:12. Baker likens the rolls to waves and points out in some places they were almost conical in shape. In the areas in which there was no vegetated roof, the crew fastened two layers of 1.7-inch polyisocyanurate insulation followed by 1/4-inch roof board. Then a 60-mil thermoplastic PVC membrane in a light gray color was fully adhered to the assembly. The membrane features a lacquer coating to reduce dirt pickup.

Photos: Keri Baker

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A Solar Installer Explains the Many Ways Roofing Contractors Can Be Involved in Solar Installations

The solar-power industry has changed dramatically in the past five years. Products and manufacturers have come and gone; tax incentives have become less attractive; and requirements for utilities to maintain a certain percentage of their energy portfolio from renewable sources are not enough to help the market in most places. Despite these negatives, unique financing mechanisms and the remarkable decrease in the cost of solar panels keep the industry booming. These ups and downs demonstrate why Matthew Bennett, vice president for design and engineering and founder of Dovetail Solar & Wind, Athens, Ohio, refers to the industry as the “solar coaster”.

Bennett’s business, which was established in 1995, installs solar on residential and commercial buildings. As such, he has worked with a number of roofing contractors over the years and sees synergies between the trades. Roofing asked Bennett how roofing contractors and solar installers can improve their relationship and achieve successful solar installations upon watertight roofs.

Roofing: When must you coordinate with roofing contractors?

Bennett: On almost every commercial roof where roof penetrations are required we’ll have a roofer come in and flash the penetrations and sometimes install a sleeve to get our conduit off the roof and into the building.commercial solar array

The other common reason for coordinating with a roofer is because the roof may be under warranty. Sometimes the warranty is held by the roof manufacturer, so we receive a list of roofers who can do the inspection. Usually there’s an inspection that needs to happen before and after the solar installation. We’re sometimes paying $1,000 to get inspections.

A lot of times we’re not fastening solar panels to flat commercial roofs; we’re installing what’s called a ballasted system where we may need to use an approved pad or put down an additional membrane to protect the roof from the pan that is holding ballast and keeping the array on the roof. Sometimes different roofing manufacturers are picky about what they allow on the roof and different kinds of roofs require different treatment, so it’s important to have a good roofing contractor available.

Roofing: When you hire contractors, what are you looking for?

Bennett: We’re looking for a roofing contractor that does quality work at a fair price because, I’ll be honest, we’ve been overcharged by roofers more than any other subcontractor. We take notes when we work with a roofing contractor: how easy they are to work with, how responsive they are to emails and phone calls, the quality of work and the price. We know roughly what to expect after being in business all these years. If we get a fair quote from a recommended contractor, we’ll often go with them without looking at other bids. We prefer to use a roofer who is familiar with the roof. A good relationship with the customer also is an important consideration.

Roofing: Are there situations in which you defer entirely to the roofing contractor?

Bennett: It’s a little unusual. We just put a system on a slate roof on a million-dollar home. The roof was very steep and we didn’t even want to get on the slate, so we hired the roofer to install the rails and solar panels. We did all the electrical work and procurement. We provided one of our crew leaders to be there the entire time to train the roofing crew and help them because they had no experience with solar. They knew how to get around on a slate roof and mount the solar flashing and they actually installed the whole array. They did it in not much more time than we would’ve done it. We were very impressed with them.

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Comments Sought on PV Racking Criteria for Asphalt Shingle Roof Integration

The Center PV Taskforce is releasing the first public draft of PV Racking and Attachment Criteria for Effective Asphalt Shingle Roof System Integration for an initial round of public comment. The first draft has been prepared by the PV Taskforce.

The Center PV Taskforce will accept public comments until 8 p.m. EST on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

The document is intended to enhance collaboration between key stakeholders from the solar and roofing industries, and accelerate the deployment of rooftop-integrated solar. Members of the solar industry and other interested parties are encouraged to submit comments and engage the Taskforce in future stakeholder discussions. Taskforce members also will accept comments from the at-large community and consider those comments within internal stakeholder discussions.

Directions for submitting public comments:

  • Download a copy of PV Racking and Attachment Criteria for Effective Asphalt Shingle Roof System Integration.
  • All comments shall be submitted no later than 8 p.m. EST, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.
  • All comments shall be submitted using the Center PV Taskforce online survey form.
  • Additional details can be found on the first page of the criteria document.

If you have questions, please contact James Kirby, (202) 380-3371.

Next Generation Solar Roofing System

CertainTeed Corp.'s Apollo II next generation solar roofing system

CertainTeed Corp.’s Apollo II next generation solar roofing system

CertainTeed Corp. has introduced its Apollo II next generation solar roofing system featuring integrated photovoltaic (PV) panels that combine greater efficiency and improved aesthetics with easier wiring installation. Featuring 54-watt monocrystalline panels, Apollo II is lightweight, durable, resistant to wind uplift, and can easily be integrated into an existing roof or with the installation of a new roof that combines solar panels and asphalt shingles.

Like its predecessor, Apollo II fully integrates with roofing shingles for a clean, seamless appearance not found with rack-mounted systems. Each slim, 12-pound module features 14 high-efficiency monocrystalline silicon solar cells. Its low profile design does not require structural reinforcement or evaluation, and the sleek black frame, cells and backsheet visually blend with surrounding shingles. The enhanced product also features an open space under the modules to allow for easier electrical wiring. New water channels and raised fastener locations further improve roof deck integrity.

The Apollo II system is offered in pre-engineered kits containing all components necessary for installation. Modules are Class A fire rated and meet UL 790 requirements. Apollo II is also rated for wind resistance up to 110 mph and loads up to 250 lbs per square foot. In addition, the product is backed by the industry’s only warranty for both electricity output and installation workmanship. Apollo II qualifies for a 30 percent federal tax credit and may be eligible for state rebates and incentives. Additional incentives may also be available through local utility providers.

CertainTeed offers a powerful portfolio of photovoltaic roofing systems, including, Solstice rack-mounted, high-performance monocrystalline panels featuring one of the best ratios of energy per area and PowerMax premium class, copper-indium-selenium (CIS) thin film rack mounted panels for residential and commercial applications. Designed to meet the demands of sustainable construction and replacement roofing, these products leverage next generation technology to generate unrivaled performance without compromising aesthetics.

Mount Photovoltaics on Low-slope Roofs

Unirac Roof Mount (RM)

Unirac Roof Mount (RM)

Unirac Inc. has released its Unirac Roof Mount (RM), which replaces RapidRac for mounting photovoltaics on low-slope roofs. Each ballast bay is compact and easy to handle, weighing less than 3 1/2 pounds and allowing for 10-degree tilt. The modular design helps installers navigate modules around HVAC units or other roof obstacles, maximizing power density. The RM supports most framed crystalline modules. In addition, U-Builder, an online tool that allows customers to design and quote a system in seconds, supports the RM.

(855) 387-8450

Are You ‘PV Ready’?

Commercial rooftops are an attractive platform for the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity-producing systems. These low-slope roofs offer an economical and sustainable structural foundation for renewable solar energy. As an example, one of the largest roof-mounted PV systems in North Carolina has been online for several months at the Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. vault logistics facility in Thomasville. Almost 7,700 solar panels completely cover the warehouse’s 160,000-square-foot roof and produce enough power (1.8 megawatts) to offset more than 90 percent of the building’s annual energy costs.

Success stories like Old Dominion’s are becoming increasingly common in the sunny Carolinas. However, it is important to remember a roof’s function is, first and foremost, to protect the building’s contents and people from the elements. In this regard, roofing professionals need to anticipate the potential risks associated with the installation of a roof-mounted PV system (array). This sort of due diligence is particularly important when installing PV systems on existing warranted roofs.

A broad selection of membranes and thicknesses are available for consideration when a PV installation is planned. Photo courtesy of GAF, Wayne, N.J., and Protech Roofing Service, San Diego

A broad selection of membranes and thicknesses are available for consideration when a PV installation is planned. Photo courtesy of GAF, Wayne, N.J., and Protech Roofing Service, San Diego

To help in these industry efforts, members of Waltham, Mass.-based SPRI—the trade association that represents sheet membrane and component suppliers to the commercial roofing industry—have developed “PV Ready” roof assemblies and guidelines designed to provide maximum protection for the roof (and maintain its warranty coverage).

In September, SPRI’s technical committee and board of directors also approved and distributed to its members Technical Bulletin 1-13A, “Summary of SPRI Membrane Manufacturer Photovoltaic (PV) Ready Roof Systems and Services”. The bulletin contains general guidelines from SPRI related to “PV Ready” roof assemblies. This article goes into more depth about issues related to PV installations, particularly on existing warranted roofs.

Ask the Right Questions

The installation of a PV system on an existing warranted roof raises many important questions for the roofing professional and building owner. For example, will the roof accommodate the added weight of the PV array? Logistically speaking, before property owners decide on a solar-power system, they will need to determine whether their roofs are sturdy enough to support
the additional loads put on the existing roof structure by the solar array.

An average solar panel and support system typically add a minimum of 3 to 4 pounds per square foot to the existing roof. It is the responsibility of the roofing professional to ensure this additional weight does not exceed the load limits determined by the building’s designer.

From an economic (life-cycle-cost) point of view, it makes sense the service life of the existing roof membrane will come close to matching the projected service life of the PV system. If not, a complex and costly reroofing project may be required long before the solar panels need to be replaced. In general, the underlying roofing system must provide the same minimum investment horizon—generally at least 25 years—to realize the full potential of the rooftop PV system.

Most PV arrays require penetrating the roof membrane. Even non-rack-type systems may include electrical conduits, wiring and other components that may need to be flashed in a professional manner. It is essential the responsibility for this flashing work rests with the roofing contractor.

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Inovateus Solar Installs Solar-power System on McElroy Metal’s Manufacturing Facility

South Bend, Ind.-based Inovateus Solar LLC, a worldwide installer of commercial and industrial solar-power systems, has embarked on a rooftop solar array project on Bossier City, La.-based McElroy Metal’s Peachtree City, Ga., manufacturing location. The project is part of the Medium Scale Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative Program. Construction on the facility’s roof and a parking lot canopy began Sept. 29. The 500 kW array is scheduled to be commissioned before Christmas.

“It is the largest solar installation for a metal roofing manufacturer,” states Inovateus Solar Project Manager Peter Rienks. “McElroy is really stepping up to the plate to incorporate renewables into their product offering.”

McElroy has 12 manufacturing facilities across the U.S. Through its partnership with Inovateus Solar, McElroy now manufactures ready-to-install solar panels fully integrated into steel-panel systems and offers solar kits with the company’s metal roofs.

McElroy Metal President Ian McElroy says: “We are very excited to be installing a half-megawatt photovoltaic system on our Peachtree City facility. The existing metal roof is over 34 years old and consists of galvanized R panel. We will be retrofitting with our 238T symmetrical standing-seam system, which provides an excellent metal-over-metal reroof solution. And, since we were installing a new roof, we decided to explore adding solar. With the help of our solar partner, Inovateus Solar, we were able to put together a plan that made financial sense.”