As reported in The Mercury News, Elon Musk recently declared 2019 as the “year of the solar roof.”
The Tesla Inc. chief executive officer may be right — but not in the way he’s expecting. While the automaker tries to ramp up production of its textured glass, solar cell-embedded rooftop tiles, another group of formidable rivals is emerging: roofers.
One of the largest roofing companies in the world has begun offering its own version of a solar roof — essentially panels laid right up against the top of a house and surrounded by shingles. Standard Industries Inc. has received 200 orders for its product so far and expects to ship 2,000 this year, said Martin DeBono, president of the company’s GAF Energy.
It’s direct competition for Tesla, which has until now been the only major game in town when it comes to solar roofs. Industry stalwarts Sunrun Inc. and Vivint Solar Inc. affix panels atop roofs instead. A move by the construction industry into the solar-roof space challenges a business that Tesla has struggled to get off the ground since a high-profile launch in 2016 — and threatens economics across the rooftop industry as solar customers come cheaper for builders already contracted to install roofs.
The way GAF’s DeBono sees the solar opportunity: “Rather than be disrupted, let’s be the disrupter.”
Sunrun and Tesla declined to comment. Vivint didn’t respond to a request for comment.
GAF isn’t the only roofer expanding in the solar space either. PetersenDean Roofing & Solar started offering panels five years ago, did 9,800 installations in 2018 and is on pace to double that this year, said Steve Huber, the company’s vice president of consumer sales. Building product supplier Saint-Gobain unit CertainTeed began a solar division in 2010.
Their products aren’t all exactly the same. For example, Tesla’s solar rooftop is a customize-able, made-to-order product. GAF makes a one-size-fits-all option that’s ready to install right out of the box. Others affix panels to rooftops with racks and brackets.
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