The siren of ‘solar shingles’ is calling on the residential solar market as Tesla’s Solar Roof wades into the sea of products.
RGS Energy, which under its former name Real Goods has been around since the 1970’s, is pulling back from direct residential sales, and focusing on delivering Powerhouse 3.0 solar shingles to installers. The company hopes to do so by the third quarter of this year, and is seeking a $10 million investment to commercialize the solar shingle product once it receives approval from Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
RGS Energy has lowered the headcount of its outside residential sales team. At the same time the company shows a $12 million commercial backlog of signed projects and a $33 million pipeline of projects being considered, but not yet signed. The company noted that growth was below initial expectations.
Powerhouse 3.0 was listed for pre-sale by the company in 2017 with expectations of UL certification in the first quarter of 2018.
RGS Energy plans to sell the solar shingles to contractors, instead of dealing with end-customers themselves. The company hopes that owning the intellectual property will give them an advantage, while higher demand created by customers shopping for a more cost effective competitor to Tesla’s Solar Roof will assist sales.
RGS Energy estimates that 1% of the 5 million residential re-roofing projects undertaken each year in the United States is worth $1 billion. That would suggest 50,000 installs at a cost of $20,000 each.
The company has provided no technical specifications – product efficiency or price per watt specifically – for the Powerhouse product, although the Powerhouse 3 will move from CIGS thin film solar cells to standard crystalline silicon solar cells.
RGS Energy says shifting to the news cells reduces costs while increasing efficiency.
In the summer of 2016, Dow announced that it would cease manufacturing Powerhouse solar shingles, after the product was installed on 1,000 homes between 2009 and 2016.
RGS Energy paid $1 million for the rights to develop the product further, and if it gets UL approval it will owe another $2 million. The company will also owe an ongoing royalty payment of 2.5% of net sales price.
No one has yet found long-term commercial success selling this product niche. And while Elon Musk has managed to sell out the solar shingles which will be produced by Tesla’s Gigafactory into later this year, we at pv magazine don’t have a clear picture of the volume that represents.