Solar roof matters: Uniting solar power and roofs could unlock rooftop solar’s potential
Solar has been one of America’s great success stories of the last decade, growing more than 1600%. Including all solar segments – residential, utility-scale and commercial industrial – there is now enough solar capacity to power 13.5 million homes, up from just 777,000 homes at the beginning of the decade.
Most of that growth can be attributed to dropping costs. Through innovations in technology, finance, distribution, installation and hundreds of other advances big and small, the cost of solar dropped 70% in those ten years.
Rooftop residential solar has been a significant part of that success story. As it surpassed its 2 millionth installation just last year, The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) estimates that by 2024, 2.5% of all U.S. homes will have a solar installation.
It’s impressive but, the fact is, the opportunity is much larger than 2.5%.
In a recent Pew Survey, 46% of homeowners say they have given serious thought to adding solar panels in the past year. These homeowners are looking to save money on their electric bills, benefit the environment, take advantage of the solar investment tax credit and better their family’s health.
The question is: How do we move from 2.5% to 46%?
The biggest opportunity to take residential solar to scale is to finally connect solar and roofing, as nearly all residential solar is rooftop solar. Despite the obvious interrelated nature of the two industries, until now, most roofing manufacturers and roofing contractors haven’t been involved in the solar world at all.
Making that connection is critical if residential solar is going to reach its potential because of scale, trust and simplicity.
First, the scale of the roofing industry is massive. There are more than 100,000 roofing contractors in the United States with 47 billion in revenue. Millions of new roofs are installed annually and about 7% of homeowners replace their roofs each year. The roofing industry is 20 to 30 times the size of the residential solar industry. Scale reduces costs, reach new consumers and allows companies to enter new markets.
It also allows the solar industry to speak to homeowners as a trusted partner. When homeowners are considering a new roof they are thinking about a 30-year investment and adding value to their home, just like with solar. Also, when making a big purchase, homeowners want to work with someone they trust. Hearing about the solar installation process and benefits of solar power from a trusted roofing professional can be comforting and convincing for residential customers. Furthermore, roofers have the ability to talk face-to-face with customers who may have not even considered solar yet.
Connecting the roof to solar also simplifies the process. The best and most cost-effective time to go solar is during the installation of a new roof, which provides a great opportunity for homeowners and solar contractors alike. When a roofer installs the solar, it becomes one project, one crew, one warranty, one salesperson; the solar can even help pay for itself, and the roof, over time. As anyone in sales can attest: simpler is better.
Solar had a lot of success in the 2010’s – setting records and growing at an unprecedented pace- but how we grow from here? Installing millions of residential rooftop systems will require new innovations and new businesses. The connection of residential solar and roofing industries offers the best opportunity to reach our potential. By utilizing the scale and trust of the roofing industry, while simplifying residential solar for homeowners, we can reach our sky-high potential.