Solar Roofing Expected to get Sizzling Hot

Solar paneling on roof

Image via CertainTeed

The solar roofing industry is relatively new but is finally starting to heat up. According to a recent market report released by Transparency Market Research, solar photovoltaic (PV) installations are expected to reach $146.9 billion worldwide by 2018. This shows an average annual growth rate of about 5.6% per year (2012-2018).

The solar boom isn’t surprising considering the rising cost of electricity, improving solar technology, awesome federal and state rebate programs/tax incentives and decreasing costs associated with installing a new rooftop or ground-level solar PV system.

Solar technology has advanced quite a bit in the past 10 to 15 years and is finally starting to become a viable option for homeowners. Since 2000, the amount of energy put into manufacturing/installing solar systems has outpaced the amount of energy produced by the world’s solar power systems. This is all starting to flip-flop now, according to Stanford researchers, who say by 2015 solar power will be able to “pay off its debt of energy” for the past 10+ years. The future looks bright for solar.

Types of Solar Roofing Systems

There are three main types of residential/commercial solar systems available today:

  • Grid-Connected
  • Off-Grid (stand alone)
  • Hybrid Systems

A grid-connected system connects directly to your home or business’s utility box where electricity is then used as it normally would be. In the event your PV system captures more electricity than you use in a month, the electric company may actually cut you a check – that’s a good change of pace! This is the fastest growing type of solar PV system in the residential market.

An off-grid system sends captured electricity to an on-site battery station to store the energy until your home or business uses it. This type of system has the added expense of the batteries, but offers the benefit of providing electricity when the power goes out.

Hybrid systems are connected to the grid and have a battery backup system for times when the power goes out.

Solar Roofing Options

You’ve probably seen or heard of solar panels, which are the large rectangular panels most people associate with a traditional solar PV system. This isn’t your only option, though.

As solar technology has advanced, solar and roofing manufacturers have introduced new solar shingles and tiles that almost resemble traditional roofing materials. Another recent innovation in solar roofing is thin-film solar paneling. Thin-film PV systems consist of a thin sheet of solar cells approximately the thickness of a human hair that can be installed directly on glass or other surfaces.

The most efficient PV solar roofing system is still traditional solar panel modules which hold about 40 solar cells each. The average solar-powered home, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), uses about 10 to 20 of these solar panel modules mounted on the roof at a fixed angle pointing toward the south for maximum exposure to the sun.

A properly installed and maintained rooftop solar system has an expected lifespan of 25 to 30 years, according to NREL.

Cost of Residential Solar Systems

Although the initial costs associated with installing a new solar system has dropped over the past decade, most residential systems still run in the tens of thousands of dollars. However, much of this cost is offset by rebates/incentives, energy savings and a boost in the home’s value. According to a 2009 report published by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the average solar system pays for itself within four to five years. After that, you can reap the rewards of clean and free electricity.

The total cost of a PV system can vary significantly depending upon the size/type of system and complexity of the installation. The average cost of a solar system is about $8 to $10 per watt installed. After factoring in rebates/incentives, increase in home value and utility bill savings, the cost of installing a rooftop solar system can drop as low as $2 or $3 per watt.

The DOE offers an example of that while a 5-kilowatt solar power system may cost $35,000 upfront ($7/watt), rebates and credits may lower the actual cost down to about $12,500 ($2.50/watt). Your roofing contractor can help sort out the actual costs of installing and owning a solar rooftop system.

Financing is available by most solar roofing installers. A second mortgage or home equity loan is a low-interest approach to financing a PV system. Some states even offer special financing programs for homeowners looking to update their home with energy efficient upgrades. For instance, Michigan offers a program that lends up to $20,000 to homeowners at a 7% interest rate for eco-friendly home upgrades, such as installing solar roofing.

Solar Rebates and Tax Incentives

There is plenty of state and federal rebates and tax incentives out there that can help offset the cost of installing solar roofing. The most up-to-date source of information available on the web is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) offered by the DOE. Just click on your state to find current tax rebates and incentives.