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  • What we're really looking for here is how do we have a solar roof that is better than a normal roof?

  • Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Solar Roof to much fanfare in 2016, but the concept of solar shingles that blend in seamlessly has been around for

  • decades.

  • So this is not a concept that's new.

  • Its reasons for lack of market traction tend to be based on the fact that it's more expensive than just a solar panel on a

  • roof.

  • Solar shingles were first patented back in the 1970s, and long-forgotten companies like AstroPower and PowerLight experimented with it in the 2000s.

  • In the last decade, larger organizations like Dow Chemical Company and BP Solar have tried it too.

  • But it never really stuck.

  • All of my involvement with these products right now is getting calls from either the manufacturers or the homeowners that have these products on the

  • roof that aren't working, and they say, "Can you, can you fix it or remove it?"

  • Cinnamon, who founded Silicon Valley-based solar installer Cinnamon Energy Systems, has dealt specifically with AstroPower, Dow and BP products.

  • But Tesla has had a rocky road too, as costs have soared and complications with the tech persist.

  • Now, GAF Energy is getting into the game.

  • It's a subsidiary of Standard Industries, a global industrial manufacturing business that's been around since the 1800s.

  • We are the world's largest manufacturer of roofing and waterproofing.

  • GAF Energy just released a shingle called Timberline Solar, which won the Best of Innovation award for Smart Cities at CES.

  • The design isn't as slick as Tesla's.

  • It's clear where the solar shingles end and the regular roof begins.

  • But it's the first product of its kind that can be nailed on just like a regular shingle, which GAF Energy says will make it far more accessible.

  • A Tesla roof can take weeks, literally weeks, to install.

  • This is a product that goes up in a day by a roofing crew using the same tools a roofing crew is used to using.

  • I think that's the game changer that we are bringing to the market, that the product is really designed from a roofing perspective.

  • Like similar products before, it's aimed at residential customers who want to go solar, but don't like the traditional rack mounted aesthetic.

  • Many experts though, say the superior aesthetics will always come at a cost.

  • There's still like three big challenges.

  • One, these roof tiles are always going to be more expensive simply because there's more parts to manufacture and more parts to assemble on

  • the roof. Second, they're always going to be less efficient because things that are on the roof run hot, so you're going to get less output per square

  • foot. And they're always going to be less reliable, because reliability is proportional to the number of wiring connections in the electronics.

  • But GAF Energy hopes to prove the critics wrong.

  • CNBC got an early look inside its new San Jose R&D and manufacturing facility to see if it will be the one to finally bring a functional and

  • affordable solar shingle roof to the market.

  • Higher costs, alongside reduced efficiency and reliability, have led to the downfall of many solar shingle companies of the past.

  • Unfortunately, pioneers get a lot of arrows in their back and sometimes those errors are fatal.

  • So AstroPower went bankrupt.

  • BP Solar withdrew the product from the market and got hit with a lot of lawsuits.

  • And Dow Powerhouse also stopped manufacturing maybe about six or seven years ago,

  • Even when the shingles were backed by big companies, Cinnamon says that the solar cells degraded quickly.

  • And because the product's wiring and connectors were inaccessibly located behind the shingles, this made it very difficult to troubleshoot problems

  • with the electronics.

  • The maintenance and the operation of the product just didn't meet the expectations.

  • In other words, they were supposed to last for 25 years, and maybe they only lasted for two or three years or five years before they degraded or

  • there were electronics problems.

  • Today, shingles comprise just a minuscule portion of the broader solar market.

  • Maybe one percent would be an optimistic estimate in the overall residential market.

  • Cinnamon says that when it comes to Tesla, it's too early to tell how it will fare.

  • There's already been plenty of stumbles though, and the Tesla Solar Roof has undergone at least three different iterations.

  • While the shingles started off quite small, about 14 inches by nine inches, now they're about 45 inches long and between 15 and 17 inches wide,

  • according to company marketing materials, likely making them simpler to install and more reliable.

  • Power density has also increased.

  • But the product remains extremely costly.

  • Last April, Tesla hiked prices dramatically for Solar Roof customers who had already signed contracts, calling the added costs "adjustments for

  • individual roof complexity." One customer, whose price shot up from $72,000 to $146,000, became the lead plaintiff in a

  • suit against Tesla. The company later said that it would reverse the increases.

  • We did find that we basically made some significant mistakes in assessing the difficulty of certain roofs.

  • But the complexity of roofs varies dramatically.

  • GAF Energy says its shingles are designed for easier installation.

  • The company already offers an integrated solar roof product, where the panels are a part of the roof itself, and says that it has installed over

  • 3,000 of these since the product's launch in 2017.

  • Already, we've installed more solar roofs than Tesla and the next largest competitor.

  • So we're already the leader by far in integrated solar roofs.

  • GAF Energy debuted its solar shingles on January 3rd, 2022.

  • They're 64 by 17 inches, nearly 20 inches longer than Tesla's shingle.

  • Each GAF shingle has a max power output of 45 watts, whereas Tesla's latest shingles are 71.7 watts, a 22 percent power increase over

  • its previous iteration.

  • The size of the shingles is right now because it's the optimum between the cost and the ability to align them on the roof.

  • Of course we can do smaller panels, as small as a single cell, just the cost of that.

  • The electronic components for GAF's shingles are housed in front, in a wire channel that runs along the left hand side of each shingle.

  • The expectation is that this will make them easier to service than shingles with wiring connections buried underneath.

  • Currently, GAF Energy does not offer an energy storage product, though the system can be paired with existing battery storage systems from other

  • companies.

  • What really sets GAF Energy apart, it says, is its deep connection to the roofing sector.

  • David Winter, the Co-CEO of parent company Standard Industries, says that one out of every four residential roofs in the U.S.

  • comes from GAF. And that means the company has a major leg up when it comes to finding new solar customers.

  • The natural moment to actually put solar on a roof is that moment when you're already about to replace your roof.

  • It makes literally no sense to put like brand new PV on an old roof that's well into its warranty.

  • So we're the people that are sitting at the proverbial kitchen table with the homeowner at that moment that they need to replace their roof, where we

  • can introduce the idea of solar

  • That keeps GAF Energy's sales and marketing costs for their solar products far below the industry average.

  • And that's actually critically important, because according to Wood Mackenzie, customer acquisition costs normally represent about 23 percent

  • of the total cost of a residential solar system.

  • In fact, the single largest constituent cost of solar today is finding customers.

  • It's almost $5,000 a customer,

  • Even with solar shingle's checkered history, GAF Energy believes that it can convince customers to not only go solar, but to get shingles too,

  • without costly sales and marketing campaigns.

  • Again, we're part of the world's largest roofing manufacturer.

  • We have access to materials that typical solar companies don't have access to.

  • Second, we have access to roofers.

  • Just as the market size for roofing is larger than the market size for solar, we have a lot more people that can actually install this.

  • No one has ever specifically try to make a solar product that a roofer can install.

  • And we've done it, and our product goes on with just a nail gun.

  • It goes on twice as fast as typical solar.

  • Additionally, GAF Energy touts the fact that it assembles and partially manufactures its shingles at its facility in San Jose.

  • While the company still imports its PV cells from Thailand, it believes that having some manufacturing located in the U.S.

  • gives it a leg up.

  • What that allows us to do is take improvements in our product from the lab and get them instantiated in the product very, very quickly.

  • If you think about the alternative, or in fact the current model, if you innovate in your product, you then have to fly a team from the United

  • States to typically Southeast Asia to try to execute the changes on the product line.

  • And what you see is changes to your product take quarters and years, literally.

  • Whereas here, it takes hours and days.

  • The actual cost of the shingles remains one of the biggest questions, though.

  • GAF would not provide CNBC with any specific details about pricing, except to say that in many cases, getting solar shingles is about double that of

  • getting a new roof without solar.

  • Let's say in many parts of the country, you have a $15,000 cost for a roof.

  • Getting a solar system, adding that would be another $15,000.

  • Getting a solar shingle roof for $30,000 would be a far better deal than anything on the market today.

  • Tesla's projected cost for an average-sized 1,700 square foot Solar Roof in the Bay Area is about $40,700 before incentives kick in.

  • That price tag also doesn't take into account the caveat on Tesla's website, which states that a roof of this size could be subject to a price

  • increase of over $10,000, based on its complexity.

  • Since GAF is targeting customers who are already planning to get a new roof, another way to think about it is this.

  • The national average for a new asphalt shingle roof is about $8,500, and the average cost of a 6-kilowatt rack mounted solar array is about $16,500,

  • before subsidies and energy savings are taken into account.

  • So if a customer bought a new roof and regular solar panels independently, they could expect to pay about $25,000.

  • So, if GAF Energy's shingles are indeed twice as expensive as a new roof, in some cases it could be cheaper to get solar shingles than to get a new

  • roof plus rack mounted solar.

  • Customers may be wary though, as Tesla also touted its shingles as an economical option for those who needed a new roof.

  • But it's yet to produce the product affordably at scale.

  • GAF has already installed its shingles on a couple of houses so far, but again, it did not make pricing information for these homes available.

  • And since the systems are brand new, it remains to be seen how effectively and reliably they'll operate.

  • Unlike shingles of the past though, GAF claims that customers won't have to sacrifice anything in terms of efficiency.

  • They'll get the same amount of electricity for a given square footage area that you would with a traditional back mounted system.

  • Because solar shingles are flush with the roof, they get hotter than regular solar panels, and that generally reduces their efficiency.

  • To counteract this, GAF Energy says that it is using high efficiency cells called mono PERC cells, which perform better than traditional

  • monocrystalline PV cells at high temperatures.

  • Still, it's hard to see how efficiency could be equivalent.

  • Given the GAF shingle's dimensions and its 45 watt rating, it would produce, at maximum, 5.96 watts per square foot, whereas Tesla's 71.7

  • watt shingle would produce 13.58 watts per square foot and an average-sized 300 watt solar panel would produce about 17 watts per square

  • foot.

  • GAF says that the smaller size of its shingles as compared to traditional solar means they can be strategically placed in the sunniest areas, thereby

  • increasing efficiency.

  • Of course, this type of real world performance will be the true test, and GAF hopes to assuage customer's doubts with its 25-year warranty.

  • I've worked at venture-backed startups where it's like, hey, we'll put a 20-year warranty out there, and if we're not around in 20 years, who cares?

  • I guarantee you Standard Industries will be around in 25 years, and therefore we have to design products that last that long.

  • GAF Energy is already working on version 2.0 of Timberline Solar.

  • And moving forward, they hope to offer a wider variety of styles beyond just asphalt shingles.

  • The goal is that any homeowner considering putting on a roof will consider putting on a solar roof.

  • It's always going to be more expensive, but there are financing options, there's electricity savings.

  • Still, Cinnamon doesn't think that shingles will ever be mainstream, and that Musk's approach at least, is inevitably leading to customer

  • disappointment.

  • If it were just to become a high-end niche product, it could be really successful.

  • I think the marketing mistake that he's making is that he's trying to position it as a solution for all solar customers.

  • And given the reliability and durability of standard solar panels, many experts just can't imagine that there's a big market of customers willing

  • to pay much more for shingles.

  • So in my experience, cost is what drives most decisions.

  • I mean, you have a homeowner that's going to look at several factors, and almost every single one of them is going to come down to cost.

  • But GAF Energy maintains that its product will be cost-competitive, and that the superior aesthetics will draw in a significant percent of

  • customers.

  • It is my hope that maybe, I don't know, in five, ten years when you are thinking about changing your roof, you will pick solar roof because it

  • makes economic sense, because it's attractive and because you will have same warranty as the rest of the roof.

  • I think that in the immediate term, we would expect a five percent attach rate.

  • I think that in the intermediate term we'd get ten percent.

  • And ultimately, the only people that would choose not to put solar on their roof would be those where they either have heavily shaded areas or

  • they're in a location where they just don't get any sunlight.

  • Over five million new roofs are installed in the U.S.

  • every year. And so if one out of every four is indeed a GAF roof, a five percent attach rate means that GAF Energy expects to install somewhere in

  • the vicinity of 62,000 solar roofs in the very near term.

  • If that actually happens, it would be a huge game changer.

  • Because as GAF says, its current, industry-leading integrated solar roof product has been installed just over 3,000 times, a miniscule fraction of

  • the overall roofing market.

  • But in an industry where the price of solar panels dropped by nearly 90 percent in a decade, the future is anybody's guess.

  • All you can say about the future is that in 50 years, it's going to look completely different than now.

  • And so I would imagine that the solar of the future, of course has rooftop mount, probably has solar

  • roofs, probably does have houses that can be completely self-sustaining, right?

  • So I think it's just the beginning.

What we're really looking for here is how do we have a solar roof that is better than a normal roof?

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How This Roofing Company Is Taking On Tesla’s Solar Roof

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    moge0072008 發佈於 2022 年 01 月 14 日
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