According to a recent report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), 437 MW (approximately 100,000 homes) of residential solar PV were installed during the first quarter of 2015. This represents a 76% increase over the same timeframe the previous year. In fact, SEIA predicts PV installations will continue to grow across all markets throughout 2016, with the most rapid growth coming from the residential sector.
Of homes already harnessing the sun’s energy, the vast majority are doing so via rack-mounted modules installed on rooftops. However, as the market for solar has grown, it has created room for differentiated solar solutions. Solar is now being considered by an increasing number of aesthetically minded homeowners who want to embrace the benefits of solar and not compromise curb appeal. Manufacturers have been trying to satisfy both desires by offering building integrated PV (BIPV) for years—with limited success. With today’s much larger market for solar, coupled with lower costs for solar overall, an increase in demand for integrated solutions is here.
BIPV refers to solar PV modules that not only generate electricity, but also typically perform the waterproofing function of the roofing shingle or tile. They install flush with the existing roof, and just like a traditional roofing product, are designed to withstand snow, wind and hail. They can be retrofitted into existing roofs or installed with a new roof. Several manufacturers of integrated solutions provide the entire BIPV system (modules, flashing, inverters, etc.) and back them with comprehensive system warranties. This backing provides the owner with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the entire PV system, and in some cases the installation of the system, is warranted by one reputable manufacturer.
The benefits, however, are not reserved solely for homeowners. These installer-friendly systems are lightweight, require no rack-mount or structural reinforcement, and are easily installed on a rooftop. Additionally, many solar installers have found that having a BIPV offering in their solution suite helps them grow their business over and above the additional revenue from BIPV sales. Several solar companies have indicated that the response rate to their direct marketing efforts have doubled or tripled when their campaigns include eye-catching integrated solar solutions as compared to campaigns that only feature rack-mounted products.
BIPV products also lend themselves well for adoption by roofing companies that are increasingly getting into solar and frequently start out by offering only integrated solar solutions. Many roofers find the installation of BIPV more intuitive than rack mounted systems, given that BIPV is installed directly on the roof deck using installation techniques familiar to them. Additionally, roofers have access to “free” homeowner leads through their normal roofing business and existing customer database. This lead pipeline has the potential to generate significant solar (and BIPV) sales when one considers that about 4 million residential roofs are installed in the United States each year.
While BIPV still makes up a very small portion of overall residential system sales in the United States, a clear uptick in interest is evident in the industry. Although it is still too early to tell if BIPV will ever take significant share from rack and panel, the robust growth of the residential market has created increased demand from homeowners and installers looking for a an alternative to rack and panel solutions.
This article was written by Mark Stancroff, director of CertainTeed Solar.