Solar Breakthroughs Are Coming Your Way

Solar Breakthroughs Are Coming Your Way
June 28, 2017 Sabine H. Schoenberg
solar roof

Tesla’s release of the new solar roof is exciting in a number of ways. Their design ends the previously visually unappealing design side of solar panels and adds in a new component, the Powerwall2 which serves as backup storage for power.

The idea of having a roof and solar panel in one integrated structure is appealing. Add in the the Powerwall and you eliminate the need for a generator. Both provide obvious built-in savings.

While Tesla showcased 4 types of solar tiles at their launch event; contemporary panel, asphalt, spanish tile, and slate, only the first two are available presently. When we reached out to a representative from Tesla he indicated that the other two should come into production some time in 2018.

Here is one question we get asked frequently: What is the difference between traditional solar panels, roof shingles and the new integrated solar roof? For starters, aside from the visual benefits of an integrated solar roof, the Forward Solar Roofing Co, compares their cells to high-end monocrystalline solar panels and they claim a “higher density than standard solar panel arrays.  Because of this, they are able to better use of a roof’s space which increases the opportunity for energy production.” One thing appears clear, earlier generation individual solar roof shingles proved to be far less reliable with all their many connections. Today’s choice is really between panels and integrated solar roofs.

It’s great to hear that Tesla will use its network of SolarCity installers throughout the country to install the solar roof system. Without it, one can just image the ensuing blame games between manufacturer and solar installers. That said, although Tesla claims their system is less expensive than a conventional roof, careful analysis in your state and local area is called for regarding tax incentives and energy cost savings.

Alternatives are out there if you look.  Forward Solar Roofing Company, for instance, has an equally attractive, yet less expensive integrated solar roof solution. They claim their square costs to be $325-350 due to a simpler manufacturing process which involves no new tooling, for example. Their roof is an integrated solar/roof metal panel, commonly called a standing seam metal roof. To our eye, the resulting look is closer to the  modern barn aesthetic.

In conversations with the founder who is also the product engineer, it was abundantly clear that he has roofing experience. This is not a minor point since after all a solar roof still has to function as a roof. Often in the home improvement industry when innovative new products come on the market, they look attractive, but turn out to have several real world installation issues.

The Forward Solar Roofing Co. is starting to train installers in CA. It’s a good sign that, similar to Tesla, the company is electing to use their own in-house installers.  Product roll out is anticipated for late 2017 on the West Coast. East Coast installations are anticipated to follow in 2018 as are other roofing styles.

If you are ready for an integrated new roof/solar solution, your choice will be driven by what roofing look you desire, followed by your willingness to give a new company a try over the established brand, Tesla. The offset to the added risk with Forward Solar Roofing Co. is their substantially lower cost.

SEIA, The Solar Energy Industry Association lists the top 10 solar states as California, Nevada, Texas, Arizona – as expected – followed by South Carolina, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York – not expected! Connecticut, my home state is unfortunately not even on the list. This is rather surprising given that Connecticut has one of the highest electric crates in the nation and Connecticut allows “net-metering” which allows homeowners to sell back excess power to the utility, a critical pay back component that makes the initial system cost more affordable over time.

Given the recent breakthroughs in solar technology and aesthetics, it might make sense to get ready and get informed.  Here are a couple of good websites to start with, CTGreenBank.com and GoSolarCT.com.  Both have helpful features to understand the process, evaluate if your property is a candidate for solar, and explain which available federal and state tax incentives you may wish to take advantage of.

Finally, should solar tech be for you, all paths lead to your building department for permitting.  The 2016 analysis from the researchers at Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies issued a comprehensive, town by town analysis of solar installations around the State of Connecticut specifically. It uniquely compares “permitting” processes and “time & costs” among five categories. For those in Connecticut, this will tell you what you are up against on a local level. The guide may also give you a fair indication for your own area, however we encourage you to reach out to similar agencies in your area for more information before proceeding.

It’s certainly time to take a serious look at the benefits of today’s solar technology.