There is still quite the buzz around residential solar products. Several companies continue work on finding ways to make solar cheaper and more efficient. And to make homeowners happier, companies continue to find ways to integrate solar systems into a home’s roof.
BP Solar offers a line called Integra that has a low-profile installation which blends with asphalt shingle roofs so the panels aren’t as noticeable from the street. Custom-Bilt Metals’ new FusionSolar fuses directly to the standing seam metal roof. GE Energy also has an integrated system as does Eagle Roofing products, which has teamed up with Suntech to offer the SolarBlend.
With solar systems becoming increasingly popular in the United States, Jay Banister, national solar and marketing manager for Eagle Roofing Products, has offered to explain Eagle’s take on the residential solar market.
Qualified Remodeler: What are the big trends you’re seeing in the residential solar market right now?
Jay Banister: The increasing prevalence of building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems is one of the big trends in the residential market. BIPV solar systems and the Eagle Solar Roof with SolarBlend from Suntech, in particular, are prized for their ease of installation and the superior finished appearance and weatherability performance. BIPV systems produce clean energy, increase home value, help protect the environment, and the aesthetics of these systems is unmatched.
Another big trend in residential solar is the desire to make rooftop solar systems part of the traditional building construction process by working with existing installers. Eagle is doing this by expanding the solar installer base to include experienced roofing contractors who either become or partner with equally experienced electricians and solar integrators. The partnering of these trades allows them to offer meaningful solar roof system and solar electric system warranties to builders and homeowners, ensuring a level of protection that has not been available in the past. Especially for large home builders and developers who have built relationships with existing roofing and electrical contractors, the ability to continue to use these trusted contractors to add innovative solar products to their homes is a tremendous benefit.
Interest in solar electric systems is increasing steadily across the country with the U.S. market, about doubling in 2008 over 2007. Homeowners who are building new homes or remodeling existing homes see the value in producing their own energy through a rooftop solar electric system. U.S. consumers are realizing more and more that solar electricity will protect them against future utility rate increases. They can see that the increased monthly mortgage cost attributed to paying for the system is often more than offset by the resulting monthly savings in electricity and that there are additional upfront savings from the federal tax credit for 30 percent of the system cost. In addition to saving money, homeowners are also learning that solar systems help to prevent the release of CO2, the destruction of forests and the consumption of fossil fuels, thereby protecting the environment for their children and grandchildren.
QR: What do you think is pushing those trends and driving the market?
JB: While there are many factors driving the market’s move toward solar, three stand out from the rest. In order of impact, we see them as federal incentives, state and local level incentives and programs, and a growing “green” movement in the United States and other countries. The strongest drivers are the federal incentives; there is a 30 percent tax credit for residential systems that helps make the financial case for homeowners. For commercial systems, the 30 percent comes in the form of a cash grant paid 60 days after project completion and accelerated depreciation provisions that greatly improve the rate of return for solar system investments on commercial buildings.
Secondly, state and utility rebates for residential systems are often 20 to 50 percent of the installed cost in progressive solar states (California, New Jersey, Arizona, Texas, Florida and others). There are also pro-solar state and local regulations and green building programs that are helping to drive the trend toward solar homes. While the most important factors are financial incentives, the overwhelming green movement underway in the United States and abroad continues to gain momentum. We see the desire to protect the environment strengthening with consumer enlightenment. Regardless of political leanings, it seems most everyone wants to keep the planet healthy and productive for their children, grandchildren and themselves. This environmental altruism coupled with homeowners’ desire to save money, especially in these difficult economic times, is driving the market. Homeowners come away happy to be freeing themselves of purchasing all their energy through fossil fuel-based utilities and the guaranteed rate increases that would come otherwise. They’re able to make a sound, subsidized investment by locking in their price for electricity over the next 25 years and they’re able to do it while being “green.”
Interest in solar systems is very strong. Sales are steady across multiple segments including custom home building, commercial, retrofitting and tract developments. Eagle expects to see a trend of continued significant increases over the next several years based on recent federal legislation (eliminating the $2,000 cap that existed on the 30 percent tax credit through 2008) and the continued availability of state and utility rebates for solar systems and the constantly falling prices of solar panels. The dropping cost of panels will ensure the long-term viability of solar systems when the federal and state/utility incentives have been exhausted.
QR: Are there any regions or areas that seem to be embracing solar technology more than others?
JB: California is certainly driven by a combination of high rebates and incentives, ever escalating utility costs and strong government regulations for adding solar systems to newly constructed homes. Eagle also sees significant interest from the Northeast, Southeast, Arizona and Texas. Generally, interest in solar is growing across the country.
QR: Where do you see the future of residential solar products going?
JB: We see further increases in silicon cell efficiency and performance at reduced prices. We see further development of innovative solar products using thin-film technologies and those potentially becoming viable in residential markets if thin-film efficiencies can reach high enough levels. We see solar technology on most new roofs in the United States within 10 years and most existing roofs within 20 years.
Residential Solar Products
Here is a brief offering from companies supplying residential solar products.
Integra: BP Solar offers the Integra solar roof system that provides a low-profile installation for all kinds of asphalt shingle roofs. When properly integrated into design, solar panels are not noticeable from the street.
EnergyLux Solar Modules: BP Solar’s all black BP EnergyLux solar modules match performance with aesthetics, offering the energy savings that solar provides in a way that complements a home’s roof. BP EnergyLux modules are available as part of a BP Solar Home Solution. BP Solar also offers its traditional line of deep blue residential solar modules through BP Solar distributors and dealers nationwide.
EnergyTiles: The EnergyTile from BP Solar is a roof-integrated solar electric system that emulates the shape of common flat concrete tile roofs. It is designed for easy installation using standard construction techniques.
FusionSolar: By focusing on simplicity and a lower cost of installation, Custom-Bilt Metals delivers an affordable solar power system with their new FusionSolar. Unlike visually obtrusive “racked” panels attached by drilling through a roof, FusionSolar is fused directly to the standing seam metal roof, visually blending in without penetrating the roof.
DrexelSolar: Drexel Metals offers DrexelSolar, a solar power harvesting system utilizing ultra-thin, amorphous silicon photovoltaic laminate that is integrated with the metal roof system. The building-integrated photovoltaic system is lightweight and relatively easy to install.
Eagle Roofing Products
SolarBlend: The Eagle Solar Roof with SolarBlend from Suntech is Eagle’s BIPV solution. It is currently available in 3-ft. 34-watt DC polycrystalline solar modules which are available with gray, brown or terra cotta frames. This product is manufactured to fit with Eagle’s concrete roof tile for a superior looking and functioning roof installation. The next-generation solar tile will be available this summer and is a 4-ft. 50-watt DC module also available with gray, brown and terra cotta frames.
Black Label: Eagle also sells Suntech’s Black Label STP 175S – 24/Ab-1 traditional rack-mounted solar modules which are all black in color, designed to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible for installation over asphalt shingles which are typically dark in color. These 175-watt modules are offered with or without the same value-added, wrap-around rebate handling and system design services that are provided with the Eagle Solar Roof.
Roof Integrated Solar Tiles: GE’s roof integrated tile systems blend seamlessly with the roofline, providing a unique combination of functionality, attractiveness and increased property value to homeowners. GE Energy’s current range of solar energy products includes solar cells, modules and prepackaged systems. The modules range from 35 to 165 watts, while system designs can range from hundreds of watts to megawatts and can be used in either on-grid or off-grid applications.
Kyocera MyGen: Kyocera’s MyGen Grid-Connected Systems are convenient and comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) power equipment packages designed specifically for residential applications. There are five packages to choose from, ranging from 1440W STC to 5040W STC, that use the latest Kyocera KD180 modules in a variety of PV array configurations. Each package is pre-engineered to optimize system performance and meet applicable NEC codes and requirements. All major PV system components, disconnects and grounding equipment are included.
OnEnergy solar system: Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group offers its OnEnergy solar system, which uses UL-listed integrated grounding designed to make system installation simpler and cost-effective. It features rail-by-rail integrated grounding, eliminating the need for connecting a ground wire from module to module throughout the entire array.
ND-070ELU: Sharp’s triangular photovoltaic modules offer increasing design flexibility. Engineered specifically for hip roofs and complex roof lines, these black anodized aluminum frames, trim strips and backing sheets blend into the home’s exterior. These modules are also designed to withstand extreme heat and wind. Invertors, monitors and additional panels can be added for a complete system.
Use the E-Inquiry for more information on the following suppliers:
- BP Solar For more information, please indicate #69 in E-Inquiry
- Custom-Bilt Metals For more information, please indicate #70 in E-Inquiry
- Drexel Metals For more information, please indicate #71 in E-Inquiry
- Eagle Roofing Products For more information, please indicate #72 in E-Inquiry
- GE Energy For more information, please indicate #73 in E-Inquiry
- Kyocera Solar For more information, please indicate #74 in E-Inquiry
- Sharp Solar For more information, please indicate #75 in E-Inquiry