Roofers Can Bring About the Solar Revolution in ‘Sunshine’ States and Beyond

Photos: GAF Energy

Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Florida are not often the first states that come to mind when discussing the future of solar energy. Many would think of California, the Golden State, with its sunny weather, mild climate, and new regulation mandating solar on all new construction starting in 2020. But at GAF Energy, a remarkable 50 percent of our growing sales opportunities currently come from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Florida. While these states lag behind the likes of California, New York, and Arizona in installed solar capacity, they — and states like them —could stand to be some of the most critical players in the next growth phase of solar adoption.

California currently boasts over six million solar homes, demonstrating that there is a clear market for residential rooftop solar in the United States. California’s success serves as a harbinger for other states, even ones not known for their sunshine or progressive energy policies. It comes down to pure economics: the price of solar panels has dropped 99 percent in the last four decades. As solar energy becomes more and more affordable, more and more homeowners across the country are considering the financial and social benefits it can provide. Even residents of the South and Midwest — where electricity is cheap and solar rooftops are few and far between — are starting to show signs of embracing solar as a viable energy source for homes and businesses.

The state of Illinois, for example, is setting some aggressive renewable energy standards to boost solar adoption. More than 40 percent of the state’s electricity comes from coal today. The state plans to sunset many coal plants over the next two to five years, in many cases turning to solar instead. In 2017 the state implemented the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), which infused $230 million into solar power and mandated that 25 percent of electric power come from renewable sources by 2025.

By including solar as an offering, roofing contractors can increase customer satisfaction as they boost their bottom line.

In Pennsylvania, solar power is up 47-fold in the past decade, and wind energy has increased by more than 230 percent in that same time frame. And there are now more than 90,000 clean energy jobs across the state, up 60 percent in just five years. Moreover, a two-year planning process called “Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future” is just getting off the ground and aims to shift 10 percent of the state’s energy from non-renewables to in-state solar by 2030. Pennsylvania also ranked as one of the locations that offered the highest solar premiums when you are ready to sell your home, increasing the median home value 4.9 percent, or $8,589, when you compare a home with solar to one without. 

Finally, Florida is a prime solar environment: it is the “Sunshine State,” after all. As hardware costs have plummeted, financial tools that have helped grow solar in California and Arizona, like solar leases and power purchase agreements, have been prohibited under a law that forbids entities other than a utility from selling power in the state. Last year, however, the Public Service Commission approved the use of residential solar leases in the state on a limited basis, signaling that Florida homeowners could more readily and affordably elect to install solar on their rooftops. Florida locations like Miami have started to more seriously consider the need for climate mitigation and adaptation; renewable energy increasingly seems like a better idea as the city finds itself spending more and more money to battle sea-level rise each year.

Bring in the Roofers

Despite all this great growth in the industry, at the end of the day, no one really needs to put solar on their rooftop, unless, say, they live far off the grid. You can easily and painlessly get power from the grid via your electric company. Humans are creatures of inertia and habit; even many of those inclined to do the right thing and/or save money with solar will put it off indefinitely.

However, every homeowner will need to replace their roof at some point. Turns out, the best time to install rooftop solar is when you are replacing your roof. If you have a roofer install the solar, it becomes one project, one crew, one warranty — and the solar can even help pay for itself, and the roof, over time. How? Homeowners can save money on electric bills by generating clean, renewable energy on their roof. Any excess electricity produced is sent back into the electrical grid for a bill credit, meaning solar can be even more financially rewarding in states with net metering policies. Given all of these benefits, going solar during a re-roofing project just makes sense.

For a roofer, including a solar offering with every new roof will create opportunities to capture a wider set of clients, even in states where solar hasn’t traditionally flourished. By offering solar to those who may have been shopping only for solar but could benefit from a bundled offer, roofers introduce an attractive financial concept to the homeowner, on that also benefits communities and the planet to boot. Furthermore, not only will a roofer make their customers happier by including solar as an offering, but they can also boost their bottom line. A solar attachment rate of just one in four new roofing jobs could increase a roofer’s top and bottom lines by 20-25 percent.

Roofing and solar are at a convergence point: roofers are now able to offer a comprehensive solar roofing product and are the best equipped to sell and install it on a home. By bringing roofers into the equation now, we’re ensuring the same person already on the roof to install shingles is the one installing solar, genuinely protecting what matters most inside the home.

Changing the conversation between roofer and homeowner about what a re-roof means requires changing the entire game, and the impacts have the potential to be immense. Roofers will future-proof their businesses by adding an in-demand product that saves their customers money. The benefits of solar should be front and center in any sales appointment — one project, where roofing installation experts are the ones helping customers save money.

Energy From Every Roof

Solar economics and policy are changing across the country, opening new markets and expanding business opportunities, and the roofing industry must correspondingly adapt. Rooftop solar should be a roofer’s domain. By growing with the solar market and offering bundled re-roof plus solar packages, roofers can bring the benefits of solar to homeowners in states that not only have solar mandates, such as California, but also nontraditional states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Roof replacement is the perfect time to go solar, and now is the perfect time to start integrating solar with roof replacements. By seizing this opportunity, roofers can begin powering homes across the country, one roof at a time. 

About the author: Martin DeBono is the President of GAF Energy. He previously headed SunPower’s residential North American business and global commercial business and served as President of SunPower Capital. He has held sales and marketing positions at various high technology companies including Cisco, Siebel, Insightful and Pure Networks. DeBono is a decorated naval submarine officer and holds degrees from the University of North Carolina (BS) and Harvard University (MBA).

Sunshare Introduces a Suite of Managed Services for Community Solar Programs

SunShare, a community solar company, is announcing a suite of managed services to assist utilities, developers, and financiers manage components associated with community solar programs. SunShare’s managed services include project development, sales and marketing expertise, and proprietary software for customer and asset management. SunShare has thousands of customers and nearly 100 Megawatts (MW) of community solar projects in operation or in development. By leveraging SunShare’s expertise, organizations can minimize risk and maximize performance.
 
SunShare is positioned to offer a full service, turnkey solution for utilities, developers, and financiers. SunShare offers products and services that can be bundled to provide a spectrum of community solar services or purchased individually to suit specific needs. SunShare has a record of execution working with utilities, developers, government entities, offtakers, and financiers to connect these parties to cost-effective, renewable energy sources and products.
 
“SunShare understands first-hand the complexity that accompanies community solar and the expertise and dedication it takes to get a project up and running,” David Amster-Olszewski, CEO and founder of SunShare, said. “Community solar is growing, and we are excited to help other entities thrive in the space.”
 
SunShare has proven its expertise in project development with 11.5 Megawatts (MW) of operational community solar gardens; 11 MW of community solar gardens being constructed, expected to be completed by the end of 2016; and another 75 MW of community solar projects in development, expected to be completed by the end of 2017. The Company has a team of developers, construction experts, and engineers that have set the standard in the industry for cost effective and efficient development and construction.
 
SunShare is a community solar company that also focuses on customer acquisition. With nearly 7,000 residential, municipal, and commercial customers across three markets, SunShare is pleased to help organizations increase their speed to market with SunShare’s market insights, forecasting, consumer targeting, and more.
 
The company is excited to announce the launch of its IT solution for customer and asset management to ease the process of customer enrollment, customer management, and invoicing, and crediting. SunShare’s proprietary asset management software platform integrates customer management, marketing, bill credit reconciliation, and production tracking.
 
“We are excited to offer our customer and asset management software as a standalone service or part of the full service for development solutions,” Al King, chief operations officer for SunShare said. “We believe SunShare can add value for our future partners as they pursue solar initiatives.”
 
SunShare’s suite of scalable, turnkey services have enabled thousands of consumers, businesses, and organizations to access the benefits of locally produced solar energy, and dozens of megawatts of community solar to come online. The company looks forward to serving the community solar industry to encourage an adoption of community solar throughout the country.

Metal Roof and Walls Help Home Reach Lofty Design Goals

When Ilhan Eser and his wife Kamer decided to build their new home in Woodland, Calif., they had some ambitious criteria in mind. They wanted the home to not only be energy efficient, but to produce enough energy to be self-sustaining. They also desired a home with great aesthetics that fit in with the beautiful countryside and minimized impact on the environment.

Ilhan and Kamer Eser decided to design and build their own home on 80 acres of land in the California countryside. Their goal was to have a LEED-certifiable house powered by solar energy and protected by a highly insulated metal wall and roof system.

Ilhan and Kamer Eser decided to design and build their own home on 80 acres of land in the California countryside. Their goal was to have a LEED-certifiable house powered by solar energy and protected by a highly insulated metal wall and roof system.


As the CEO of Morin, a Kingspan Group company, Eser had another key design goal: to showcase his company’s metal roof and wall systems. “We wanted to do something that was good for the environment and the country,” Eser recalls. “So we said, let’s do a LEED-certifiable, net-zero house that will be a house of the future, if you will, using our company’s products. Our company is all about being environmental and being green and being sustainable, so that was the starting point.”

The result is a home that provides more than enough energy to meet its own needs with solar panels. It also captures graywater (gently used household wastewater) to use for irrigation and features a cutting-edge geothermal heating and cooling system that does not burn fossil fuels. All the household systems can be operated with a smartphone. “I believe in the future every house will be built like this, with your energy on top of your roof, basically,” Eser notes.

The metal roofing and wall systems are made of durable, highly recyclable materials and provide a high level of insulation to help keep energy costs down. The roof design features stunning angles, including an inverted “butterfly” roof over the great room to bring in the maximum amount of natural light.

As he began the project, Eser soon realized that he was breaking new ground in more ways than one. He found most residential architects and general contractors were unfamiliar with metal framing, roofs and walls, so he decided to tackle the design himself. He also served as his own general contractor, tapping into his 30 years of experience in commercial and industrial applications.

“I decided to look at it as if it were a light commercial building, and then I started finding people,” he says. “It was an interesting experience. I designed the house myself—although my wife had the overriding power, as always. She had to approve whatever I did, and when we had an argument, you probably can imagine who won.”

The Project Takes Wing

When it came time to discuss installing the roof and wall systems, Eser called Rua and Son Mechanical Inc., headquartered in Lincoln, Calif. According to President Louie Rua, the company focuses on metal roofing and wall panels—and that’s all they’ve done for the last 25 years. “We are very specialized in what we do,” Rua says. “We’re certified installers for most if not all of the metal roofing systems out there, and we also do our own custom fabrication. It’s become a niche market, so we travel around quite a bit.”

The roof of the Eser residence features unconventional angles, including a large section over the great room with an inverted butterfly design that required an internal gutter system.

The roof of the Eser residence features unconventional angles, including a large section over the great room with an inverted butterfly design that required an internal gutter system.

The company has made a name for itself by excelling on high-end, intricate and cutting-edge metal projects that transcend typical warehouse applications. “We’ve found that when we go outside the box and take on the real difficult projects, the ones that are a little bit intimidating for other companies, that’s where we excel,” Rua says. “We’ve been doing it so long, and our team has a wealth of experience. When the trickier jobs come around, we are well equipped to handle them.”

This project was right up the company’s alley. “Ilhan was pretty adamant he wanted us to do it,” Rua recalls. “This was his personal house, so it was quite a compliment. I took on the challenge, and we took it very seriously. We worked through what it would cost, how long it would take, all the dynamics. His design team did all the preliminary design and then our team got in there and played with it a little bit and made a few tweaks. We put a lot of thought into those details.”

Rua admits the high-profile nature of the client and the complexity of the project were daunting. “Any job when you first jump into it and see it’s outside the box can be intimidating,” Rua says. “But then as you get familiar with it and start breaking it down and working through it, it gets easier. One of my lead superintendents, Fernando Huizar, was knee-deep in it, and he and Ilhan really hit it off, which is important. The relationship with our clients is our first priority, and on every job we strive to meet and exceed their expectations. It couldn’t have gone any smoother.”

Rua and Son Mechanical installed the double-layered roof and wall systems, which consisted of insulated metal panels (IMPs) and aluminum finish systems. The 7,500 square feet of exterior walls are made up of 4-inch-thick IMPs, topped with concealed-fastener panels. The mechanically seamed roof incorporates 8,000 square feet of 6-inch IMPs. The custom finish is Kameleon Dusty Rose, which changes color from green to yellow to silver to bronze to brown, depending on the amount of sunlight hit-ting it and angle from which it is viewed.

PHOTOS: CHIP ALLEN ARCHITECTURAL IMAGES

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UN Climate Conference Agreement Will Impact Energy Efficiency of Buildings

The agreement from the U.N. Climate Conference will dramatically impact the energy efficiency of buildings in the U.S. becoming standard operating procedure for new construction and making deep retrofits worth the time and effort.

According to the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, there are approximately 6 million commercial buildings in the U.S., comprising 87.4 billion square feet. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average commercial building wastes 30 percent of its energy consumption at a cost of more than a trillion dollars of wasted energy.

PIMA President Jared Blum, serving also as vice chair of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, led a delegation of renewable and energy-efficiency business leaders to the COP21 meeting in Paris. Blum and the other leaders participated in briefing sessions given by the U.S. negotiating team, as well as in workshops as technology and policy experts.

“COP21 has indeed resulted in an unprecedented operating commitment to reduce CO2 emissions for the 196 countries attending,” says Blum. “Coupled with the recently passed Clean Power Plan here in the U.S., we expect to see building designers and scientists reevaluating how to get existing buildings to perform.”

Blum participated in the COP 21 in a number of different ways:

  • Provided the opening statement, the Intervention, at the Plenary Technical Working Group for Governmental Delegates.
  • Held meetings with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and a U.S. Senate delegation offering business input to the conference leaders.
  • Participated in a panel discussion with representatives of the wind industry and other efficiency advocates.

“Of real difference this year is the shift in the attitude of the business community towards this effort. The prices of solar- and wind-energy technologies have fallen dramatically, energy storage R&D is making significant progress, and energy-efficiency practices and policies have definitively demonstrated that economic growth can be separated from energy use,” adds Blum. “I believe that realization was one of the reasons this conference was a success.”

MiaSolé and McElroy Metal Partner to Sell Thin Film Solar Modules

MiaSolé Hi-Tech, a subsidiary of Hanergy, announced a partnership with McElroy Metal to sell MiaSolé FLEX series, thin film solar modules as part of McElroy Metal’s solar panel solutions. The MiaSolé thin film modules carry a 15.5 percent efficiency rating with a simple peel-and-stick application method that reduces balance of system costs by 20 percent. McElroy will offer MiaSolé modules factory laminated directly to its metal roof panels to create a lightweight, low-profile solar energy solution durable in extreme, high-wind and seismic zones and on buildings with limited load bearing roofs.

McElroy also markets a complete solar kit for McElroy standing seam, low-slope, storage unit and carport metal roofs. By providing square footage and location, McElroy can provide a complete, pre-engineered solar package with MiaSolé modules, inverter and balance of system components.

The MiaSolé and McElroy Metal partnership combines many advantages for architects, developers, builders and contractors. The 25-year—or more—power output of the MiaSolé FLEX series modules compliments the long service life of metal roofs. Options for factory-applied FLEX modules to metal panels can further reduce onsite installation costs and contribute to consistent quality.

“Today, solar is becoming a standard part of the building envelope,” says Ken Gieske, vice president of marketing for McElroy Metal. “Our partnership with MiaSolé expands our support of green building initiatives and the growing demand for renewable energy as an industry standard.”

Anil Vijayendran, head of product management at MiaSolé, adds: “We are excited to partner with McElroy Metal. With a high efficiency rating for thin film, the MiaSolé FLEX series modules enable roof manufacturers to install a renewable energy solution on roofs and structures previously restricted by wind, seismic and weight limited building structures.”