GAF solar shingles overcome HOA objections in Virginia

By Elizabeth McGowan April 14, 2023 Roofers set up solar shingles atop Jonathan Lockwood’s roof in Reston, Virginia. Credit: Elizabeth McGowan

Via Energy News Now: If Jonathan Lockwood needed to spring for a brand new roof, he was decided to discover a versatile cowl that would transcend simply preserving his 1981 townhome dry. He additionally wished to slash his escalating electrical invoice.

Aware that greenlighting conventional rooftop solar panels can be a troublesome slog in his hyper-regulated deliberate neighborhood in Northern Virginia, he opted for a lower-profile product that integrates solar expertise into nailable asphalt shingles.

“If you’re going to reroof, you might as well put on this added benefit,” mentioned Lockwood, whereas watching a proficient crew methodically set up a smooth 3.86-kilowatt system atop his finish unit in late March.

“And see how flat it is?” the 67-year-old requested. “It doesn’t look like a contraption from a Mars colony.”

That’s an apt description of what producer GAF Energy launched final yr because the Timberline Solar Energy Shingle roof. The firm just lately branched into Virginia, drawn by the state’s potential to be a pacesetter with residential solar power.

Lockwood’s two-story Fairfax County home adjoining to a pond is considered one of about 100 in Reston’s Wharf Cluster, modeled after a New England fishing village.

As the primary on his “block” to go solar, he and his spouse, Kathleen, count on to be the envy of their neighbors when their triple-digit utility payments drop by as a lot as half, or $74 month-to-month, through a net-metering association with Dominion Energy.

Jim Hester, an account govt with a Virginia department of Homefix Custom Remodeling, lined Lockwood up along with his new roof. Homefix, a longtime GAF companion, was chosen as a part of a pilot program when GAF Energy debuted Timberline on a restricted foundation.

Even although Homefix has a sister firm that installs rack-mounted arrays, Hester leaned away from that choice this time.

Why? One, he knew conventional panels can be a bear to put in in a home with a loft, cathedral ceilings, and no attic to cover protruding infrastructure. And two, he feared tangling with notoriously strict home-owner associations.

“The HOAs can be brutal in Reston,” Hester mentioned, recalling encounters on separate home enchancment initiatives. “If you put in the wrong color mailbox, they practically want to put you in jail.

“But we had no blowback with the Timberline roof,” he mentioned about dealing initially with the affiliation affiliated with the Wharf Cluster after which the group overseeing the entire city. “They just wanted us to dot our I’s and cross our T’s.”

Aesthetics matter when neighbors are so shut, Hester mentioned. It’s a bonus, he famous, that the two-in-one solar shingles relieve householders from dealing with pairs of contractors and warranties.


Panels may be a greater match if a roof is in good restore, he emphasised, however solar shingles are a “no-brainer” for a home with an outdated leaky lid.

Generally, a house owner can count on a Timberline roof to be on par with the price of a conventional shingle roof with bolt-on solar panels, in response to a GAF Energy spokesperson. Prices range as a result of they’re set by the roofing companion contractor.

“These systems aren’t for everybody and they’re not cheap,” Hester mentioned. “But in my personal opinion, they’re going to take over the solar world.”

Wait, didn’t Tesla already do that?

Those who recall Tesla’s acquisition of SolarMetropolis seven years in the past may determine Elon Musk’s firm had already cornered the market on solar shingles. But that hasn’t developed as proposed.

Homefix CEO Adam Shampaine mentioned it’s a standard misperception among the many public that the shingles produced by GAF Energy and Tesla are similar.

“The Tesla shingle wasn’t a shingle. It was thousands of little panels covering your roof,” he mentioned. “It was so complicated that it took two weeks to install and needed specially trained people. It was cost-prohibitive and didn’t function very well.”

Those setbacks motivated GAF Energy to introduce a less complicated system.

As was the case with Lockwood’s home, a educated roofing crew contracted by Homefix installs the solar shingles in sooner or later. GAF Energy then sweeps in behind so as to add the inverter and different parts, and full {the electrical} hookup.

Rey Holmes, vice chairman of product at GAF Energy, joined the San Jose-based firm in 2019 after stints within the engineering departments at each SolarMetropolis after which Tesla. Holmes praised Musk’s roofing initiative as “pioneering.” However, the mixture of an intricate product and a specialised labor drive stymied its potential to broaden at scale.

“It has taken roof-integrated solar 12 to 13 years to eliminate those bottlenecks because up until now it has always been solar companies trying to make roofing,” Holmes defined. “Here, it’s a roofing company making solar.”

GAF, which is GAF Energy’s sister enterprise, is North America’s largest roofing and waterproofing producer. It is related to eight,500 licensed contractors nationwide, together with 400 in Virginia.

Homefix is without doubt one of the 15 contractors accepted to supply householders all through Virginia a Timberline roof.

“Yes, we’ll have competitors in the long term,” Holmes mentioned. “But we don’t have competitors now.”

Virginia is considered one of 16 states the place U.S.-manufactured Timberline shingles can be found.

“We go where we already have a strong contractor network and a strong presence via GAF,” he mentioned, including that Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia are “an area of massive possibility.”

“That dual value is huge,” Holmes mentioned. “We’re offering a different category of product. We have an ability to go places where other solar companies cannot and leverage roofing companies to be that trusted labor force.”

Competitor welcomes shingles to solar desk

While some solar firms may forged aspersions at a competing product, Herve Billiet of Fairfax County isn’t in that class. In reality, the CEO and co-founder of Ipsun Solar has adopted a more-the-merrier philosophy.

Billiet applauds GAF Energy, a part of large Standard Industries, for starting to fill a spot in building-integrated photovoltaics when different firms have fallen brief.

“I see this as a massive improvement,” he mentioned. “We need more investments like this and all the innovation we can get.”

Even if his crews labored 24/7, Ipsun couldn’t presumably cowl each Virginia rooftop.

“I can’t do this myself,” mentioned Billiet, whose initiatives have generated greater than 100 million kilowatt-hours of fresh energy to this point. “The more people we have who are getting power from a clean, renewable source, the better off we are.”

The grasp electrician and renewable energy veteran mentioned he began Ipsun due to the urgency to handle local weather change.

An array of panels would be the proper resolution for some, whereas shingles may very well be the proper match for a house owner with an aged-out roof. Whichever route is pursued, Billiet advisable that prospects collect a number of quotes after which work out the financially smart resolution to their particular person scenario.

Even although Billiet is keen on panels, he anticipates shingles will proceed to achieve capability and market share in his territory in and across the nation’s capital.

“If that technology surpasses us, we as the solar industry will have to adapt and all become roofers,” he speculated with amusing. “I’m open to using whatever technology is available to me.”

For Lockwood, turning to the solar hinged on economics. He plans on reaping the added worth of his new roof as a result of he and his spouse are content material to remain put within the home they bought in 2005.

Homefix and GAF Energy couldn’t present particular numbers, however a just-released U.S. research revealed that conventional solar panels can increase the sale worth of a home by roughly 4%. The quantity different relying on geographic location.

SolarPower, a solar developer included in Silicon Valley in 1985, launched the March report drawing upon knowledge from Zillow and EcoWatch.

While Lockwood admitted to admiring Greta Thunberg, the younger Swedish local weather activist, he emphasised that “I’m not a virtue-signaling environmentalist.”

“I’m doing this for practical-person reasons,” he mentioned about his solar change. “That includes a higher appraisal and savings on my power bill.

“What made it an even bigger sell is the federal government practically paying people to go solar.”

The reroofing of his home and adjoining storage — a complete of two,042 sq. toes — qualifies him for a 30% federal tax credit score. Lockwood added that it’s a reduction that the guarantee on photovoltaics lasts 25 years and is double that for the asphalt shingles.

“They really put their money where their mouth is,” Hester mentioned about GAF Energy.

He defined that Lockwood’s guarantee ensures his array will meet sure manufacturing requirements throughout its lifespan. For occasion, the corporate will reimburse him if it underperforms on producing a promised 6,519 kWh in its first yr.

In addition, Lockwood has entry to his system’s solar renewable energy credit. Briefly, one credit score is created for every 1,000 kWh of electrical energy his system produces. In Virginia, each is at present price $52.

As Lockwood watched the roofers toil away on March 30, neighbors Neal and Pat Gause wandered over to gander on the high-up novelty. They have been impressed it might concurrently save their good friend cash whereas being bland and conforming sufficient to glide over the same old hurdles of a choosy design evaluate board.

The Gauses aren’t eager on following his lead instantly as a result of their roof is shipshape and so they spend half the yr in Hawaii. But then once more, they agreed that solar shingles may very well be a rational funding, particularly if Lockwood gives uplifting updates.

He’s keen to start out calculating outcomes as soon as his home is outfitted with {the electrical} infrastructure this month and he goes stay with Dominion.

“I guess we’re the role model on the block for solar,” Lockwood concluded. “A lot of people are curious about how this will work out. We’ll see what happens.”

Elizabeth McGowan is a longtime energy and atmosphere reporter who has labored for InsideLocal weather News, Energy Intelligence and Crain Communications. Her groundbreaking dispatches for InsideLocal weather News from Kalamazoo, Michigan, “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You Never Heard Of” received a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2013. Her e-book, “Outpedaling ‘The Big C’: My Healing Cycle Across America” is offered from Bancroft Press. Based in Washington, D.C., Elizabeth covers the state of Virginia.

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