Jeff Wolfe, co-founder and CEO of groSolar, represented one of the largest installers of residential solar products in the U.S. Jeff discussed the fact that the rate of adoption of solar in the U.S. is slow but there will come a time when integrated photovoltaics will be the standard.
The first hurdle is integrating two elements: a roof and electricity. It’s hard enough to install a roof so it doesn’t leak. Now toss PV into the mix and the new assembly requires additional skills, tools, and knowledge. One key to successful applications going forward is to design integrated systems which simplify installation and maintenance.
The next challenge is the question of who are solar roof installers? Are they roofers, electricians, glazers (remember, some systems have a lot of glass in them)? And what department do you go to in City Hall to obtain the permits? Is it a roof or is it electrical? As a country, building codes and processes vary greatly from state to state and having to battle your way through the local building code department for each new application will dissuade roofers and consumers to take on this new technology.
Alain Garnier, Saint-Gobain Solar mentioned that the solar industry is growing by about 40 percent in other parts of the world. That could be largely due to the energy costs. Our “cheap energy” has been a hindrance to consumer demand in this arena. As an example; Europe is far ahead of the U.S. with regard to energy efficiency and passive house adoption largely because the economic case was clear.
The expediting of solar adoption in the U.S will most likely be determined by two things; first, energy rate increases that will cause pain to consumers and, two, federal and state incentives that encourage and reward consumers for taking a significant step toward more efficient buildings.
Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation