This photovoltaic (PV) segment of the roofing industry continues to grow while most others decline. This trend is mainly due to rising energy costs and federal stimulus goals of making our country greener. Combine these factors with state and/or local incentives in many areas of the country and the return on a new roof and PV system investment can be less than ten years in some cases. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) (www.dsireusa.org) provides a “comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
As with any major building investment, there are number of considerations that must be addressed with a rooftop PV installation: how will the system be mounted on the roof – with penetrations, ballast, or adhesive? Can the building structure support the additional load? What about local codes and permits? How will the watertight integrity of the roof be ensured during and after installation?
When building owners are interested in solar, the roof system must be addressed. The PV system should be installed in an environment that will not require extensive roof maintenance or replacement for 20 to 30 years because the cost to remove and reinstall PV systems in order to (for example) find a leak source can be expensive. Another consideration: the incremental cost of a new roof will be minimal compared to the cost of the complete new PV system – a smart building owner will take care of both at the same time.
Although PV is an electrical application, roofing is the trade that owns the rooftop, and the majority of solar PV decisions/installations are controlled by roofing contractors. In California (where the use of PV is common) many roofing contractors have created in-house PV departments or have working relationship with solar integrators – the experts that design the systems for each specific building.
Solar technology will continue to show gains, both in efficiency and usage. Currently, it is widely accepted in only a few states because of the financial incentives available in those areas. Incentives will continue to expand to other parts of the country, and if the demand for rooftop PV has not hit your area yet, it will within a few years.